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Analyst: School Choice Grant Program Could Save Texas Billions

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Texas Senate Committee on Education today talked about possible funding options to promote school choice.

Lawmakers want to know if having more school options will create competition and, in turn, make all schools in the state better. One option to encourage school choice is a so-called taxpayer savings grant program. The idea was proposed in the Texas Legislature last year as part of House Bill 33. It would pay up to 60 percent of the amount that the state spends per pupil each yearon school maintenance and operations for private school tuition – that’d be about $5,200.

Joe Bast is the President and CEO of the Heartland Institute – a non-profit research center based in Chicago. He looked at the numbers and believes many Texas families would take advantage of the option and that it would save taxpayers a big chuck of money right away.“In the first year of the program, 5.8 percent of students would move. In the second year of the program, 6.6 percent would move. That’s about 300,000 students in the first year of the program and approximately 350,000 students in the second year of the program. If you multiply that by the $3,520 per student that we believe would be saved by the program, you can come up with the estimate of how much the State of Texas would save. And that estimate is approximately $1 billion in the first year and $1.2 billion in the second year,” Bast says.

Committee members also focused on charter schools.

Right now there’s a cap on the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state. Advocates want the cap lifted – saying charter schools can be more efficient and cost-effective. Opponents argue that the for-profit education companies that operate charter schools don’t care enough about what goes on in the classroom.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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