ATPE and Coalition for Public Schools address talk of vouchers as legislative session nears
Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 12/08/2020 | Author: Monty Exter
When COVID-19 disrupted so many aspects of our lives and forced students into a remote learning environment this year, the pandemic brought a renewed focus on whether taxpayer funding should be used to pay for vouchers for private or home schooling, including virtual vouchers.
In late October, the Coalition For Public Schools (CPS) sent Governor Greg Abbott a letter addressing its members' concerns over Abbott's newly announced Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) Program. Read more about the SSES program in this Teach the Vote blog post.
The coalition is made up of more than 40 organizations, including ATPE, and represents over three million Texans. The letter from CPS, which opposes the use of federal COVID-19 relief funding to create a special education voucher program, follows ATPE's SSES statement that was released the previous week. The coalition's letter acknowledges the need to provide more support to students with special needs while highlighting the shortcomings of voucher proposals, including this one. The letter goes on to suggest real solutions, such as restructuring the special education funding system to better deliver the services and programs sought by the parents of special education students.
CPS has also sponsored a series of webinars this fall regarding vouchers. A November 2 panel discussion on special education vouchers was moderated by ATPE Senior Lobbyist and CPS Steering Committee Co-Chair Monty Exter. It featured panelists Chandra Villanueva, Program Director of the Economic Opportunity Team for Every Texan and Jolene Sanders-Foster, Advocacy Director for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD). Panelists highlighted many of the educational and financial challenges inherent to ensuring students with specials needs receive a "free and appropriate public education," as required by federal law. The panel also discussed how vouchers address, or fail to address, those challenges.
Exter also moderated a December 3 CPS-hosted discussion of state-level vouchers, including virtual vouchers. The panelists were David Anderson, General Counsel and Policy Analyst at Raise Your Hand Texas, and Eanes ISD trustee Heather Sheffield. Panelists stressed that access to full-time virtual education should be regulated and partnered with strict responsibility and accountability requirements for any entity that uses public dollars to provide educational services, whether those services are provided directly by a district or charter or by a private vendor.
A third panel presentation is scheduled for this Thursday, December 10, which will focus on federal issues related to vouchers and will feature panelists Morgan Craven, National Director of Policy, Advocacy and Community Engagement for the Intercultural Development Research Association, and Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Foundation.
Registration for the final presentation and archives of the first two presentations can be found on the CPS website. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for more information on vouchers and other issues that may be considered during the upcoming legislative session.
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