Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education, was invited by the Texas AFT (American Federation of Teachers) to speak about pending voucher legislation.

This is what she said:

I lived in Texas for ten years–not far from here in a little town called Martindale when my husband was a Southwest Texas State University student. Then we moved to Houston, where two of our three daughters were born.

The Texas that I remember was a conservative state. Taxpayers didn’t like footing the bill for anything they did not need to.

So now I am back in Texas 40 years later, and I am wondering where all the conservatives have gone. Because all of the proposed voucher bills to give taxpayer money for private schools and homeschools are multi-billion dollar entitlementprograms that would make socialists blush.

Now, for my part, I like most entitlement programs like the GI Bill that members of our military earn or food stamps because no one in America should go hungry.

But these voucher bills are giveaways to people to pay for private schools even though there is a perfectly good public school just down the road.

But that good neighborhood public school, where most Texans send their children, will disappear. Because you can have a multi-billion dollar voucher program or well-funded public schools, but you can’t have both.

Let’s look at some of the voucher bills being pushed in Texas right now. These bills were not written by Texans for Texas. I read voucher bills. Your bills are all pretty much the same bills I see being proposed in other states. Earlier today, Corey DeAngelis, who works for Betsy De Vos, was rallying a small crowd at the capitol. Corey, bless his heart, is the Where’s Waldo of the voucher world. If there is a voucher bill, Corey will show up to sing its praises. But he will never tell you what it will cost. So I will.

Texas Senator Middleton proposed a voucher bill. Mr. Middleton’s voucher would give parents $10,000 a year and create a new taxpayer-funded bureaucracy to dole out the money.

Currently, in Texas, there are 309,000 private school students and 750,000 homeschooled students. There are 9.9 million Texas households. I did the math. If all private school and homeschool families take that $10,000, this voucher system will cost ten billion dollars–that is over $1,000 a household a year.

The Lt Governor is pushing a more modest voucher bill that would give $8,000 a year to families. Do you feel much better knowing that every Texas household could fund vouchers at over 800 dollars a year?

If one of these bills passes, Texas will fund a public school system, a charter school system, and a voucher school system. Something has to give. Because unless Governor Abbott says he will pay for billions of dollars of vouchers by raising taxes, that money is coming out of your public schools.

At the Network for Public Education, we have been studying voucher programs for years and know a few things about them.

First, they always grow. Every program that begins with restrictions grows each year.

Arizona began with special education students. Now it has a universal ESA voucher program.

Indiana insisted that students try public schools first. It was limited to low-income students. Now 77% of all Indiana families are eligible and the legislature is now trying to raise the income cap to make the wealthiest Indiana families eligible.

The second thing we know is that vouchers always cost a lot more than politicians say. When New Hampshire’s program was passed, it was estimated to cost about $3 million in year two. The actual cost came in at $22.7 million, a cost increase of 756%. In Arizona, they are still trying to figure out how to pay for this year’s vouchers that came in way over budget at a half billion dollars.

Third, most of the money goes to families that were perfectly willing and able to pay for a private school anyway. That percentage in most states is between 75% and 80%. The vast majority of voucher recipients are families whose children are already enrolled in private schools.

And if one of these bills passes, you will also see all of the waste and sketchy spending we have seen in other states—taxpayer funds used for horseback riding lessons, trampolines, big screen TVs, and items being bought only to be returned for a store gift card. And Texas politicians know it! Senate Bill 8 tells parents they cannot sell the items they buy with vouchers for a year.

When our daughters attended public schools, they had to return their books at the end of the year. With these voucher programs, you get taxpayer money to buy books and other items, sell them, and pocket the cash.

Finally, let’s talk about the more important cost that goes beyond financial concerns.

The Texas I remember was proud of its diversity. It embraced it. Whether you were a Baptist or a Catholic, Chicano, Black or white, a Texas identity glued everyone together. It formed the basis of a civil democracy.

Understanding others and tolerating different points of view cannot be learned by reading books; you learn empathy and tolerancethrough shared life experiences with those who are different fromyou. And that starts in public schools where every child—Christian, Jewish, gay, straight, kids with disabilities all have a place. Read Senate Bill 8. It is an invitation to state-funded discrimination. Do not publicly fund a private school system that gets to sort and select children and shut those it does not want out.

Go with what you know and want to conserve. Texas public schools made Texans great.