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Doing the Math on Vouchers' Impact to Texas Public Schools

My husband John and I raised three children in Waco. All three of our children are the product of both Waco public and private schools. John and I also own a real estate company, so we are keenly aware, and annually stress over, the high property tax burden needed to fund public schools in McLennan County, which is annually imposed on Texans who own real estate. Therefore, the issue of school vouchers is a topic I am studying extensively.

Doing the Math on Vouchers' Impact to Texas Public Schools

Proponents of vouchers call vouchers “parental choice.” However, vouchers don’t give any parent a “choice” when it comes to educating their children.


Let’s look at the math behind vouchers with a very simple example. I am purposefully using round numbers to make my point very clear.


Let’s say that the average home in Waco is worth $100,000. The property taxes on our homes are calculated as a percentage of the value of our homes. So, if property taxes are 1/100 of a home’s value, a typical homeowner in Waco would pay $1,000 a year in property taxes. If the Texas Legislature approves vouchers, our hypothetical Texas homeowner could take that $1,000 per year, turn it into a voucher and use that voucher to partially pay for their child to attend one of Waco’s private schools.


Let’s say that a Waco private school charges parents $10,000 in tuition per year. In my example, our typical Waco homeowner could receive a $1,000 tuition credit or voucher if they wanted one of their children to attend a private school. However, our parents in this example would have to come up with the remaining $9,000 balance in order for their child to attend — and pay that $9,000 each year thereafter if they wanted their child to continue to attend private school through four years of high school. A four-year high school diploma would cost this hypothetical parent $40,000, with the state contributing $4,000 in property tax vouchers and the parent paying the remaining $36,000 for one child’s high school education. Clearly, hundreds of McLennan County residents simply could not afford this “choice.”


Parents who rent and therefore pay no property taxes receive no vouchers. Their only choice would be to continue to allow our public schools to educate their children. Similarly, parents who live in rural communities that have no private schools also have no choice, because there is not a private school alternative for them to consider.


However, let’s look at that math for a wealthy family in Waco that owns a home worth $1 million. That homeowner obviously is financially comfortable and therefore already has the choice, even without vouchers, to send his or her kids to either one of Waco’s public or private schools. Using the same math, this parent pays $10,000 in property taxes a year (1/100 of the home’s value) and this parent (who owns a $1 million home) therefore receives a voucher for the entire $10,000 annual tuition to Vanguard. This parent can send his child to Vanguard free for all four years. However, the Waco Independent School District has lost $40,000 in property taxes because vouchers paid for the millionaire’s child’s tuition to for all four years of private high school.


The only “choice” that vouchers give is the choice to defund our public schools, which educate 91% of Texas’ children. As a parent of two graduates of Vanguard College Preparatory School here in Waco, this is not a choice I believe we should make.


Parents who rent and therefore pay no property taxes receive no vouchers. Their only choice would be to continue to allow our public schools to educate their children.


Published in the Waco Tribune-Herald on 2/24/2023


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