For the 61 percent of economically disadvantaged students who attend Austin Public Schools, private school tuition might seem impossible for their families to afford. Sometimes public school is the only option for parents or guardians, and they are forced to keep their children in schools that are struggling academically.
Some Republican state lawmakers say that shouldn’t be the case.
“Not just the wealthy who can send their children to private school, and not just those who have the mobility to move to the suburbs," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session. "But for parents in the inner cities where their children are trapped in failing schools, it is their right to have those same opportunities.”
This legislative session, Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) has filed a bill that would allow parents to take state money and use it toward tuition at any accredited private school in the state, otherwise known as the Taxpayer Savings Grant Program or school vouchers.
Click on the markers below to see tuition rates for various schools, with and without vouchers. Deeper shades of green indicate larger discounts, while lighter tints indicate smaller ones.
Some schools have different tuition rates for different grades, so we averaged those tuitions together. Those schools are indicated with an asterisk in the map.
As the bill reads right now, the state would give a parent or guardian 60 percent of the average per-student funding that schools receive for maintenance and operations. Based on current financial information, that would be $4,996. The state would keep the rest of that money ($3,331) as savings. If tuition is more than $4,996, the parent or guardian is responsible for paying the rest.
Opponents of school vouchers don’t like the idea of removing state money from public education and sending it to private schools, where there is less accountability and control.
But let’s take the partisan debate out of the equation for a second. What would it mean for real families in Travis County if school vouchers passed?
KUT has mapped out private and parochial schools in Travis County. We’ve looked at this year’s tuition rate for elementary, middle and high schools and applied the estimated voucher amount to see how much these private schools would cost parents if they utilized the program.