As Libertarians, we believe that government should not force people to pay for other people’s education. Our proposals here are more limited: they are improvements that we think have some chance of being passed by the Legislature.
Government spending on K-12 education has risen dramatically with no real improvement in outcomes. In 2018, Texas already was spending $11,392 per pupil, according to the Texas Education Agency. In 2019, the legislature passed a bill adding $6.5 billion in new public education spending over two years.
K-12 education spending is 32% of the entire 2020 state budget. State government pays for 45% of public education, and the rest is paid by local school district property taxes.
We propose reducing the budget for education by 4% per year for ten years. Some of that reduction can be achieved by reducing per pupil spending, while some of the reduction can be accomplished by reducing the number of students in the public school system.
Republicans often say they want less government, but Texas Republicans are clearly in the pocket of the teachers’ unions. Despite many years of total Republican control, Texas does not have any private school vouchers or tax credits, unlike other states. Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick publicly announced a proposal to give all public school teachers a $5,000 raise. Republicans say they want less government, but they always deliver more government.
Libertarian-oriented policies will reduce the burden on taxpayers while improving options for students.
Tax Credits and Vouchers
Libertarians seek to reduce the number of students choosing government schools by making private schools and home schooling more affordable. Around 5% of Texans already attend private schools and around 4% home school.
Private schools often spend less per student, they usually provide better education, and they satisfy parents and students better.
They also allow for religious and cultural differences, unlike one-size-fits-all public schools.
School vouchers should be available from the general fund. I believe they should amount to around $8,000 or 2/3 of current public expenditures. Annual testing should be required and the school results should be published to help parents decide on their child's school. Vouchers should also be available to home schoolers.
Another way to encourage a shift towards private schools is with education tax credits. Property owners should be able to offset at least 50% of their school property taxes by donating to private schools, or to private school scholarship funds.
Tax credits and vouchers will make private school attendance affordable for more families, and will also reduce the burden on public schools. Tax credits and vouchers both reduce the burden on the state’s education budget, because the amount redirected to private schools per student is less than the current public school spending per student. (Private schools have a significantly lower expense per student than public schools.) More competition will reduce costs, foster innovation, and lead to schools that better satisfy students, teachers and parents.
Lower age of compulsory education
State law requires children ages 6-19 to attend school with some exceptions. Texas has a higher maximum compulsory age than any other state. Libertarians oppose compulsory education laws, and we propose the politically feasible step of lowering the maximum compulsory age from 19 to 16, which is the maximum age in a number of other states.
Texas Tribune: Texas’ school finance system is unpopular and complex. Here’s how it works.
Texas Tribune: Teacher raises and all-day pre-K: Here’s what’s in the Texas Legislature’s landmark school finance bill
John Stossel: Private School Success Around the World
Cato: U.S. Charter Schools Produce a Bigger Bang with Fewer Bucks
BallotPedia: School Choice in Texas
Texas Charter Schools Association: The Truth About Texas Charter Schools
Texas Association of Schoolboards: Compulsory Attendance & Truancy
National Center for Education Statistics: Compulsory school attendance laws, minimum and maximum age limits.
• Reduce spending on public education.
• Offer education tax credits and vouchers.
• Expand school choice.
• Lower age of compulsory education