‘School choice’ support differs based on where students live

School Choice Rally at the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 24, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
School Choice Rally at the Texas State Capitol on Jan. 24, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Most parents living in rural, suburban and urban areas in Austin are against the state’s proposed school choice bill, according to a new poll by The Texas Tribune and the University of Texas released Wednesday.

If passed, Senate Bill 3, also called the School Choice Bill, opens the door for parents to use state dollars to fund private or parochial education. Of the 1,200 people who responded, 35 percent of them support the bill, while 44 percent say they’re against it.

When the poll looked at where these parents live, those numbers changed. According to this new poll, no matter where parents live, in the city, the suburbs or rural areas — most of them opposed Senate Bill 3.

Support for school choice was about 35 percent. But of those opposed:

  • 40 percent live in the city
  • 48 percent of respondents were in the suburbs
  • 42 percent live in rural areas

Experts at the Center for Public Policy Priorities — an independent policy group — say vouchers to private school will only cost some parents more in the long run.

“For low income families the problem is that the amount of money that they would receive through the voucher program does not come close to equaling the amount of money that it costs to go to a private school,” said Ann Beeson, the group’s executive director. Beeson also said that many parents in rural areas don’t have enough private schools to chose from.

Groups who support the bill, like the Texas Public Policy Foundation, says the bill would open the door for parents to customize education, no matter where they live.

“So often we see children with special needs that are not thriving in their traditional schools,” said Stephanie Matthews, spokeswoman with the foundation’s Center for Education Freedom. “What Senate Bill 3 allows those parents to customize whether it’s a part-time online, part-time therapeutic or part-time tutoring environment.”

If the bill passes, an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 students in Texas would be able to take advantage of it. Senate Bill 3 is currently in the Education committee, but no action has been taken.

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