Texas Senate Amends Bill After Unusual Alliance Opposes School Choice Law

Published May 16, 2017

As introduced, Senate Bill 3 would have allowed parents of children born after September 1, 2012, or who attended a public school for a full year preceding application, to set up an education savings account (ESA) or take part in a tax-credit scholarship. ESAs give parents access to the money allocated for their child’s public education to spend on educational alternatives, such as private school tuition, homeschool textbooks, or tutoring.

‘Different Reasons’ for Opposition

The public education establishment fought SB 3, claiming it would divert funds from public schools and cause public school closures. Some homeschooling families, meanwhile, already practicing their own brand of choice by exiting the public school system altogether, opposed the bill, saying they feared it would lead to unwanted regulation.

Jube Dankworth, treasurer of Texas Home Educators, says her group and the public education advocates united from opposite sides of the choice issue.

“We have very different reasons for fighting this bill,” Dankworth said. “The fact that the legislature is wanting to intrude into and exert legislation over private education, a whole industry that up until now it left alone, is enough to cause people to gather together in this fight.”

‘It’s Very Complicated’

Merrill Hope, a writer for Breitbart Texas who has reported extensively on Texas homeschooling families’ opposition to school choice initiatives, says many homeschool parents just want to be left alone.

“It’s very complicated,” Hope said. “Nothing is simple. There are many sides to the story. In Texas, they set up homeschools as non-accredited private schools to avoid the state’s compulsory education laws. That’s what’s protected homeschoolers. While public schools see ESAs as diverting money and collapsing the system, homeschool families are concerned with government interference and government regulations. They don’t want to be part of the system.”

Dankworth says she believes in a clear separation of funding for public and private schools and sees any crossover as a mechanism for government entanglement with homeschoolers.

“Public funds should go to public schools,” Dankworth said. “Once private or homeschools take public funds, they are no longer private, but just another public school with the restrictions that come with that money.”

Legislation Amended

SB 3 passed the Texas Senate, with amendments, on March 30.

“The original bill did not require kindergarten or first-grade students to attend public school for the entire preceding academic year before homeschooling,” Hope reported in April at Breitbart.com. “Now it does, and it means existing homeschool families cannot participate.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.