Dr. Cathy McAuliffe

2024 Democratic Candidate for Texas State House Representative (District 32)

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As a product of public schools, I am a proponent of public education and opposed to school vouchers. They undercut public education, are inequitable, stretch the boundaries of the separation of church and state, and run counter to the mandates of the Texas Constitution.

Gov. Abbott is a proponent of school vouchers, which allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to nonpublic schools. He believes that state funding should follow the student out of public school and into any charter school or private school the parent chooses. Todd Hunter, our current State Representative for District 32, has voted repeatedly for school vouchers in the special sessions that Gov. Abbott has called.

Why shouldn’t state funds be used for parents to send their kids to nonpublic schools?

School vouchers threaten to weaken our education system – where the majority of Texas students are educated – by siphoning much-needed funds away from public schools. Our public schools already struggle to provide children with adequate academic and support services because of budgetary constraints.  When parents use state-funded vouchers to take their children out of public schools and send them to private schools, what happens to education funding for the rest of the state’s students? Unless the Texas legislature suddenly steps up and adequately funds public education, the schools in our community will suffer.

In 2021 Texas was ranked 42 out of 50 states in terms of a student’s Chance for Success, School Finance, and K-12 Achievement. “A state’s overall grade, published in September, is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked for the report card.” (https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/quality-counts-2021-educational-opportunities-and-performance-in-texas/2021/01#:~:text=State%20Overview,a%20grade%20of%20C%2Dminus.)

Rather than pouring money into vouchers for private education, the state should increase funding for public education, allowing school districts to pay teachers a better salary; hire needed auxiliary personnel, such as school counselors; and provide sufficient instructional materials so teachers don’t have to use their own money for classroom supplies and displays.

Statewide school vouchers are inequitable. Most rural and smaller school districts do not have any quality private schools. Parents in rural areas will not have the option to send their children to private schools, even if they would prefer to do so. Money for school vouchers will be siphoned from smaller districts already dealing with low budgets, making it even more difficult for them to provide a quality education to their students.

Separation of church and state is a key element of our democracy and in our education system. Parents have every right to decide to send their children to religion-based private schools, but our taxes should not pay for them to do so.

School vouchers run counter to the mandates of Texas’ Constitution, which is clear that the state has the responsibility and duty to provide free education in public schools: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public fee schools. (Feb. 15, 1876.)” https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/docs/cn/htm/cn.7.htm#:~:text=A%20general%20diffusion%20of%20knowledge,15%2C%201876.)

Free education is “essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people.” The best and most equitable place for that to happen is in well-funded public schools where all the children in our community have the opportunity to learn, grow, and become responsible citizens.

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