Private School Choice: Options for Texas Children

There are no legal barriers to a school choice voucher system. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that vouchers are constitutional if parents choose the schools and the program favors no particular religion. At the state level, in 1995 the Texas Supreme Court held that the state legislature could establish a system of school choice.

A feasible voucher program could significantly lower discipline issues and dropout rates, allow for greater school choice and competition, and would not reduce the funding per public school student. Additional benefits of school choice include higher teacher pay due to the increased demand for high-quality teachers, increased private spending on schooling, and higher public school performance and standards due to increased competition for students and specialization of schools.


The fundamental problem with Texas public schools, and nationwide, is that not enough children are engaged in useful learning. Numerous surveys have found that 40 percent to 60 percent of suburban, urban and rural students are not engaged with public school content. Individual students require different kinds of schools and curricula because of their particular learning styles, interests and abilities. The public school system, however, has created schools that strive for uniformity and comprehensiveness — grouping students by age, rather than by specific subject interest and ability.

Increasing the number and variety of schools competing for students and teachers would give public schools an incentive to improve. Specialized schools that compete for students would help teachers and students find curricula that best meet their needs, and both public and private schools would have incentives to become more efficient. Widespread improvement requires opportunities for families to choose from different instructional approaches that harness educators’ talents and passions to address the differences in school-age children.


School choice for Texas children could be implemented through universal tuition vouchers, as well as corporate and individual tuition tax credits. However, the most important reforms would give Texas students the option to choose to attend private schools. A voucher program open to all Texas K-12 students — enrolled in public or private schools — could be structured in a way that does not reduce the current funding per public school student, and adds no new cost to taxpayers. Indeed, the program would increase the funding available per public school student and there would be substantial long-term

savings to public schools in reduced capital costs.


  1. If public school students had a voucher worth 75 percent of average spending in 2013-2014 ($6,667), about 450,000 students would use them, saving taxpayers $1.87 billion over two years.
  2. If, in addition, current private school students had a voucher phased in over three years and 60 percent used the voucher, net total savings to taxpayers after two years would be about $580 million.



  1. Additionally, over 10 years, reduced debt service and capital outlays could save local school districts roughly $24,000 per voucher, or $10.8 billion.