Don’t be fooled by propaganda regarding school choice. This effort by Republicans attempts to re-implement school segregation in an increasingly brown state.
“School choice, fund students, not schools.” There have been a lot of catchphrases regarding the voucher programs that the GOP is trying to push in the upcoming legislation. While talking to voting Republicans, many don’t even seem to understand how that system works. But, make no mistake, all of these catchy phrases mask something dark and sinister. Republicans want to re-implement school segregation in Texas.
The voucher program bills which have already been introduced:
SB 176 by Mayes Middleton.
Senate Bill 176 is a bill that establishes the Texas Parental Empowerment Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible parents to help pay for their children’s education. Under this program, eligible parents may receive a deposit in a parent-directed education savings account for each child who is eligible to participate in the program. The money in the account may be used to pay for approved educational expenses, including tuition and fees at a private school, tutoring services, and other educational expenses.
The bill requires the Comptroller of Public Accounts to administer the program and certify educational assistance organizations to manage the accounts of program participants. The Comptroller is also responsible for making deposits into program participants’ accounts and maintaining a list of approved educational expenses.
The bill prohibits the state from requiring any changes to the curriculum or assessments of private schools or therapy providers participating in the program. It establishes a process for the Comptroller to issue insurance premium tax credits to businesses that donate to the program. It also allows program participants to intervene in any legal action challenging the program’s constitutionality or the insurance premium tax credit. It requires those seeking to prevent the enforcement of education laws related to parental empowerment to pay the attorney’s fees of the prevailing party in such cases.
Premium tax credits.
According to the bill, the comptroller is required to deposit an amount equal to the lesser of:
- The amount of the insurance premium tax credit claimed by the parent for the tax year; or
- The amount of the insurance premium tax liability of the parent for the tax year.
The Texas Parental Empowerment Program allows parents to use state funds to pay for their children’s education funded through insurance premium tax credits.
Parents can claim the credit on their insurance premium tax return in an amount equal to the amount deposited into their parent-directed education savings account for the tax year, up to a maximum credit of $200 million in any fiscal year.
Insurance premium tax?
SB 176 would allow parents to claim a credit against their insurance premium tax liability. The credit would equal the number of education expenses paid by the parent up to the maximum credit allowed for the tax year. For example, the credit could be claimed for education expenses paid for specific approved purposes, such as tuition, fees, and textbooks for an institution of higher education or private school or the purchase of instructional materials or uniforms required by a school or program.
But what is an insurance premium tax?
An insurance premium tax is a tax on all health, life, and property insurance. Many of you probably think you don’t recall ever having to pay an insurance premium tax before. That’s because when you purchase a home or auto insurance policy, the insurance company pays the tax and passes on the cost to you.
So, besides insurance companies, who is paying insurance premium taxes?
Corporations and business owners.
That’s right, SB 176 is a tax credit for business owners and wealthy people for reimbursement of educational costs up to $100 million per year, all at the expense of public school funds.
Now, let’s talk about some important demographics in Texas that prove “school choice” is about re-segregating schools based on Mayes Middleton’s bill.
White people own 79.6% of all businesses in Texas.
White students only account for 26.5% of attendees to Texas public schools.
Even though white employers are the majority, white children are a minority.
Considering Middleton’s bill only applies to the wealthy, very few Texas families would be eligible for his tax credit.
Let’s do some math.
There are 2.2 million white-owned businesses in Texas. According to the U.S. Census, 36% of Texas households have children. Therefore, less than 800,000 parents in Texas will be eligible for Middleton’s tax rebate.
There are roughly 5.5 million children in Texas public schools.
Under SB 176, the credit is equal to the expense paid by the parent up to the maximum amount of the credit allowed for the tax year. The parent may claim the credit when they file an income tax return for the year the expenses were paid. So, in this case, the parents would not be reimbursed directly for their expenses but rather receive a tax liability reduction equal to the amount of the credit claimed.
Mind you, Middleton’s bill allows for tax credits of up to $200 million per year.
What does that mean for public schools in Texas?
This program would take $200 million away from public school funding and funnel it toward wealthy white Texans.
Not only is it socialism for the rich, it strips much needed funding away from public schools.
When a family uses a voucher, public school districts lose funding. With less money, districts are forced to cut popular programs such as dual language education, STEM initiatives, and vocational training. Such cuts narrow curricular and programmatic offerings and disproportionately impact low-income communities that cannot afford private school tuition and transportation costs even with a voucher.
On top of that, only 33% of children born in Texas in 2020 were white. 48% were Latino, another 13% were Black, and 5% were Asian. The only states/areas with a lower birthrate of white babies than Texas are California and New Mexico. That means that the current population of white students will continue to decrease over the coming years and decades.
HB 557 by Cody Vasut.
SB 176 establishes a program in which parents can receive a tax credit for educational expenses. HB 557, on the other hand, establishes an educational expenses reimbursement program in which parents can receive reimbursement for eligible education-related expenses. The program is administered by the comptroller and funded by sales and use tax deductions. Unlike SB 176, which provides a tax credit, HB 557 provides direct reimbursement to parents for their eligible expenses.
Texas’s average private school tuition is $10,391 per year (2022-23).
This means that a parent will have to shell out the money for private school first and later be reimbursed by the state. Some people may have an extra $10,391 in their bank account on any given day, but 63% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.
And in Texas, Black and Hispanic families are twice as likely to live below the poverty line than their white and Asian counterparts.
Like Middleton’s bill, Cody Vasut’s bill primarily targets white families. This will lead to the re-implementation of school segregation in Texas.
These bills aren’t about education. They are about defunding community schools, hurting our workforce, re-implementing segregation, taxpayer-funding certain religions, and rural funding for the wealthiest urban kids.
These bills have nothing to do with “education freedom” and are about conning taxpayers to foot the cost.
In the last election cycle, millions of dollars of School Choice PAC money were funneled into Republicans from white billionaires.
The 88th Texas Legislature starts tomorrow.
The legislature will focus on hundreds of terrible bills like this session. Even though the effort to re-segregate public schools is loud and well-funded, there are still many Republicans who support public education. If school choice does come, it will face an uphill battle. Stay tuned.
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