In light of our current challenges, many policy analysts are looking at innovative ways to balance the budget without raising taxes. We have seen some great proposals this year regarding Medicare and Medicaid spending and higher education reforms, and now Texans for Voluntary Taxpayer Savings has proposed Taxpayer Savings Grants, which could possible save the state $2 billion in the next biennium.
The Taxpayer Savings Grant proposal is a voluntary program that allows parents to transfer a child from a public school to a private school, with a TS grant to help pay tuition. For each student who voluntarily takes a grant, the state saves an average of $3,429. Furthermore, the public school would not have expenditures for that child (think smaller classes,) but the school would keep a portion of funding.
Currently, the average total cost per student in Texas public schools is $11,567. The proposed grants would be calculated on maintenance and operations expenditures alone ($8,572 per student) and therefore each grant is equal to only 60% of the M&O expense, which is $5,143 per student. The state saves the other 40% of the M&O expense, which is $3,429 per student. Additionally, the difference between operation and total expenditures is about $3000 per student. So even though the student is no longer attending, the difference of $3000 remains in the Texas public school system and actually results in an increase in per pupil funding.
Not only would the Taxpayer Savings Grants save money for the State of Texas while increasing per pupil funding for public schools, the grants would allow parents to choose the school best suited to their child's needs. I have long been a critic of the one-size-fits all paradigm that dominates our nation's approach to education. Different children have different educational needs and it is madness to think there is only one way to educate a child. I often hear teachers complain about a lack of parental involvement, so let's get parents involved by allowing them a voice in their own child's education.
The analysts who created this program are hoping the Texas House will be able to attach the measure to legislation before the session ends. With savings projected for the State, the Texas public school system, and taxpayers, this seems like a win-win-win deal. It is unfortunate that the proposal comes so late in the session and I do not predict passage, but it is an idea that deserves consideration.