SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff on education savings grant vouchers

Texas State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff released the following information regarding education savings account vouchers that are being proposed by several Texas organizations:

EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT = GIGANTIC ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM

When I read about the proposed “education savings account” idea being proposed, I cannot help but think of one word – entitlement.  Is this an idea from President Obama?  Nope.  This is an idea from limited government conservative types.

Let’s be clear.  There are no “savings” in these accounts, because the recipient never would have paid enough taxes into the account in the first place.  There are only “donations” or “entitlements” in these accounts.  Let’s dig in to the details.

Texas spends around $8,500 per student per year in public schools.  In order for a family to pay enough taxes to fully pay that cost, the family would have to live in a $700,000 house or generate $125,000 in sales taxable transactions (or a combination of the two) PER YEAR, PER CHILD.  At these numbers, there are very, very few Texas families paying their own way.  So whose money are they saving?  Yours?  The elderly couple with no kids in school?  The local businesses in their hometown?  Yes, all of those are contributing to the “savings” account that this family can take wherever they want, apparently with no questions asked or accountability for the money.

So, how much is all of this going to cost?  The proponents of this plan want to make it available to families to spend on a variety of things, including private school tuition or homeschool curriculum.  There are currently 600,000 students who fall into those two categories alone.  Therefore, if the “savings account entitlement” is $6,000 per student, the total would be approximately $3.2 billion per year, or $6.4 billion per state budget.  Keep in mind, that NONE of these students get funding from the state budget today.

If that total figure isn’t shocking enough, let me explain how it will get even bigger.  What about the parents who, when they learn they can make an extra $500/mo. per month per kid, pull their kids out of public school and claim they will be home schooled – then simply keep the money without delivering the education.  It will happen. You can count on it. Those parents who are already disengaged from their child’s education would have no problem simply putting $500/mo. from each child’s education in their pocket.

This idea takes the word entitlement to a whole new level for Texas.  It is nothing more than a huge transfer of wealth with no way to control the price tag.

It should be very simple.  The Texas Constitution requires the state to provide a system of public free schools.  If a family chooses not to use it, they do not have the entitlement to take their neighbor’s money to the school of their choice.