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Press Release

    Backgrounder: Texas Freedom Scholarships

    04/04/2003

    BACKGROUND: CSE supports a parent’s right to select the educational environment where their child has the best opportunity to learn. Government-assigned, government-run schools are not free-market. However, we do not oppose public education. There are many good schools and many good teachers. But currently, choice is widespread among citizens who can either move to a school district of their choice or can afford to pay twice – once in taxes and again in private school tuition. So choice is widespread unless you are poor. This legislation provides a choice for those who currently have no options.

    Bill Status

    • In House Calendar Committee

    The Choice

    • A child’s parent may choose either a public or private school (a private school has the choice not to participate)

    The Scholarship

    • 90 percent of per-student funding in the district excluding federal funds, the state’s “available school fund” (proceeds from dedicated investments), and funds for special education • The balance of 10 percent and the available school fund money stays with the public school district

    Districts Affected

    • 40,000 or more students • At least 50% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch program • Aldine, Alief, Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Pasadena, San Antonio, Ysleta • Annual enrollment caps will limit new scholarships to 3% of a district’s M&O budget or 5% of eligible students, whichever is less. • Other districts may opt into the program beginning with the 2005-2006 school year

    Children Eligible

    • Must have attended public school a majority of the previous semester • Family income up to 200% of free and reduced price lunch eligibility

    Participating Private School

    • Private schools have the choice to participate or not • Cannot charge parent additional tuition • May not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, or disability in accordance with federal statutes • Must select students by random process if more applicants than seats • Must administer either the state’s exam or a norm-referenced test recognized by the education commissioner in Texas and make aggregate results public • Must be accredited or be in the process of applying for accreditation

    State Administration

    • Primarily the responsibility of the Comptroller of Public Accounts • Comptroller must select privately funded resource centers to assist parents, public school districts and private schools

    Research

    • Charles A. Dana Center and the Comptroller will evaluate the program until 2010 • Evaluation must include parental satisfaction, degree of school quality and capacity, student satisfaction, private and public school performance • The Commissioner of Education will create a method for evaluating individual student progress on the basis of yearly progress

    Analysis of Impacted School Districts

    There are eleven school districts which meet the criterion of HB2465. These districts are profiled in the table below. • 72% of the students are eligible for the federal free/reduced lunch program • 23.1% are African American • 61.9% are Hispanic • 85% are minorities