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Sunday, May 14, 2023




As the old saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas – including the controversy surrounding school vouchers. While Republican lawmakers in the Lone Star State are currently pushing for a voucher program, it turns out that this isn't the first time Texas has flirted with the idea.

Believe it or not, back in the 1950s, Texas almost approved a school voucher program – but not for the reasons you might think. You see, at the time, desegregation was becoming a hot-button issue in the state, and some lawmakers saw vouchers as a way to avoid integration.

Yes, you read that right. Rather than face the uncomfortable truth that segregation was wrong and needed to be dismantled, some Texas politicians thought it would be easier to just give white families the option to send their kids to private schools with public funds.

Thankfully, the voucher plan never came to fruition back then. But fast forward to 2021, and it seems like some things never change. Once again, Texas Republicans are pushing for a voucher program – and once again, it's a controversial move.

So what's the big deal with school vouchers, anyway? Well, for starters, they're essentially a way to funnel public money towards private schools. Proponents argue that this gives families more choice and can improve education outcomes, while opponents worry that it will drain resources from public schools and exacerbate inequality.

But let's be real – the real reason vouchers are so contentious is because they're often seen as a way to undermine public education altogether. After all, if families can use public funds to send their kids to private schools, what's the incentive to invest in public schools? It's a slippery slope that could ultimately lead to a two-tiered education system where only the wealthiest families can afford quality schooling.

Of course, Texas Republicans would never admit that they're trying to dismantle public education. Instead, they frame their voucher proposal as a way to help families who are struggling to find the right school for their kids. But as with most political issues, the devil is in the details.

For example, the Texas voucher bill would only be available to families who meet certain income requirements – meaning that it's not exactly a free-for-all. And while proponents argue that this will help low-income families access better schools, opponents worry that it's just a way to funnel public money towards private schools without actually addressing the root causes of educational inequality.

So where does that leave us? Well, it's hard to say for sure what the future holds for school vouchers in Texas. The bill still has a ways to go before it becomes law, and there's sure to be plenty of debate and discussion along the way.

But one thing is clear – the issue of school vouchers isn't going away anytime soon. Whether you're a die-hard supporter or a fierce opponent, it's worth paying attention to what's happening in Texas – because as goes Texas, so goes the nation.

Texas almost approved a school voucher program in the 1950s – to avoid desegregation. | TPR