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As lawmakers start the new session with a historic surplus and already pointing to their public education priorities, a new survey released Tuesday shows Texans support teacher raises, want more public school funding and are divided into voucher programs.
Charles Butt Foundation examined 1,125 Texans took part in the fourth annual Texas Education Survey, which included approximately 340 public school parents. The majority of respondents supported public schools and approved of their activities.
“Texas parents are happy with the quality of their school, which gives us great hope,” said Audrey Boklage, vice president of learning and impact at the Charles Butt Foundation. Boklage said her team is handing out the survey results to lawmakers at the Capitol so they can review the data when conversations start about public education policy.
With teacher shortages, financial hardships, pandemic-related learning losses, and political divisions over how race and gender should be taught, schools and the public education system will be among the most important topics lawmakers will discuss in this session. Legislation is already being considered that could possibly change the way public school fundsgive schools more money per student and expand disputed “School Choice” programs that give parents public money to educate their children outside the public education system.
In the Butt poll, 89% of respondents supported an increase in public funding to raise teacher salaries, which has not increased since 2019.
Some legislators and public education advocates say higher teacher salaries will help solve the problem. lack of teachers that the pandemic has worsened. Legislators in both the Texas House of Representatives and the Senate have proposed pay raises for teachers, including additional funding for a program that gives teachers bonuses based on their performance. The House Budget Proposal also calls for an increase in the amount schools receive per student, which has not increased in four years. On Tuesday State Representative JAmes TalaricoD-Round Rock, filed House Bill 1548which would give teachers a $15,000 raise.
Following the May school shooting in Uvalda, survey participants said school safety was a top priority, with 91% of them saying they supported increased funding for safety programs. More than half of the parents who took part in the survey said they thought their child was at least moderately likely to be cyberbullied, and 48% said the same about physical bullying or fighting. Two-thirds of the parents surveyed said there was a moderate risk that their child might experience some form of bullying, sexual harassment or discrimination at school.
“School choice” programs such as vouchers – government-sponsored scholarships for private schools that also became shorthand for measures to take taxpayer money out of public schools – caused more controversy among survey respondents. Of all respondents, 54% said they oppose a voucher program in their communities if it would cut funding for local public schools; parents were evenly divided on the same issue, with 49% saying they were in favor and 49% saying they were against.
Notable political figures such as the governor Greg Abbottlieutenant governor Dan Patrick and the Republican Party of Texas included “choice of school” in the list legislative priority. Republican lawmakers who support programs like vouchers think this session could be their best chance to pass something like educational savings account a program that will allow parents to use public funds to pay for their children’s education in a private school, online learning or private tutors.
When asked about a scenario in which private schools were to receive public funds, 88% of survey respondents believe that the state should require them to publicly report their finances, and 73% of respondents believe that the state should require them to follow the state curriculum.
Boklage said the most important takeaway from the survey is that a majority of Texans have a positive view of public schools after nearly three years of uncertainty.
“Based on this poll, Texans seem to be quite active,” she said. “They have an opinion about their public schools and they come from a place of support.”