FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 20, 2023
New poll of Texas school employees shows overwhelming concern about vouchers, disgust in Legislature’s inaction on funding
Gov. Abbott continues his crusade for school privatization on a call with right-wing advocacy group. But yet another poll shows Texans want fully funded public schools above all else.
AUSTIN, Texas — Eighty-nine percent of Texas K-12 public school employees say they are concerned that instituting private school vouchers and expanding public funding of charter schools will hurt their community’s public schools, according to a new survey from the Texas American Federation of Teachers.
The results come just one day after Gov. Greg Abbott appeared on a tele town hall event with the right-wing advocacy group Texas Public Policy Foundation, during which he confirmed he would call at least one special session — and possibly more — on “school choice” in October.
Following remarks from one pastor bemoaning that “public education does not espouse Christian values,” Abbott not only doubled-down on his voucher gambit, but also his attacks on Texas public schools and their supposed “woke agenda.”
In his remarks, Abbott professed that he has seen a “hunger” for private school vouchers in his travels across the state. That’s of little surprise, as his barnstorming tour focused almost exclusively on visits to private religious schools.
The results from Texas AFT’s most recent survey on legislative topics once again say otherwise. Among the 3,452 K-12 and higher education employees who responded to the survey, the response on vouchers is nearly unanimous in the opposite direction.
Regardless of political party, Texas teachers and school staff agree that vouchers pose an existential threat to their schools and to their students. Nearly 84% of Republican educators surveyed voiced concerns about vouchers, along with 93% of Democratic educators and 89% of Independents.
“Most Texans want basic, foundational things for our schools, like a friendly bus driver to take their kids safely to school every day or the guarantee that their child’s school has a full-time nurse on campus,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “What they don’t want is a tax break for every billionaire who opens up a private Zoom school or wealthy family who’s been sending their kids to private schools for generations.”
“Pushing private school vouchers isn’t about what’s right for Texas. It’s about what’s right for our governor’s political ambitions and his high-dollar donors,” Capo said. “Greg Abbott is fiddling while Texas public schools burn.”
Along with the voucher question, the survey asked participants about several other key public education issues from the 88th Legislature:
- Retaining educators: 79% of K-12 school employees gave the Legislature a failing grade on retaining qualified educators, along with 78% of higher education employees.
- Public school funding: 81% of K-12 employees said the Legislature did a terrible job, noting the lack of a basic allotment increase will be to their school district’s detriment.
- Higher education: 76% of higher education employees said they were concerned the passage of SB 17, which bans diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at Texas universities will have a negative impact on their campus. 77% said the same of SB 18, which limits the employment protections of academic tenure.
- Special session priorities: K-12 survey respondents were asked to rank which bills that did not garner a committee hearing would be most important to them in a special session on education: 42% said a bill to reduce required state standardized testing, 23% said a bill to close loopholes that allow class sizes above legal limits, and 21% said a bill to reduce paperwork and workload requirements.
The regular session of the 88th Legislature ended without an increase to the basic allotment that funds public education in Texas and that has been stagnant since 2019. The session also ended without action on most of the recommendations in the state’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force report.
Instead, Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Senate allies relentlessly pursued an expensive taxpayer-funded voucher package, which also did not pass.
Texas AFT’s survey was conducted online between July 26 and Aug. 9, 2023, and was distributed to K-12 and higher education employees in Texas via email and text message.
The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.
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