Statement on ‘school choice’

January 24, 2017

Rob D’Amico (512-627-1343)

Louis Malfaro, president of the 65,000-member Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, commented today on school choice:

When the governor and lieutenant governor talk about school choice, they are talking about choice for private schools to pick and choose the students they will admit. For example, most private schools are not equipped to accommodate students with disabilities, thus those students will benefit least from voucher programs.

In fact, school choice is a complete misnomer, because under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s plans, these education savings accounts as they’re called would maximize choice for only a small segment of the student population—mainly upper-middle-class kids that could afford the extra money needed for the high-cost of private-school tuition.

Education savings accounts are just vouchers by a different name, and they divert much-needed funding from public schools to private schools with little or no financial or academic accountability. They also open the door for taxpayer money to fund religious schools, and they further segregate our schoolchildren between those that can afford the extra money needed for private school and those that can’t.

When we talk about school choice, we should be talking about enhancing a wide variety of choices already available in many public school districts—magnet schools, fine arts academies, college-preparatory and early-college high schools, Montessori education, dual language campuses, community schools and a full-range of programs and services to support the needs of our increasingly diverse students.

Texas AFT represents more than 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers.