Not a Fan of School Vouchers? How About a Tax Deduction

Tax Exemption Could Be a Winning School Choice Plan for Texas

May 13, 2024

A new school choice plan by a former state education board member could be a winner when the Texas Legislature considers the hot-button topic next year.

Cynthia Dunbar is proposing the Education Emancipation Act, a tax exemption plan for school choice that she says should unite conservatives because it avoids state appropriations of funds, thus the threat of government regulations tied to such funds.

“This is the first solution that actually allows for school choice with parental rights without regulatory control and strings attached,” said Dunbar. “It’s specifically drafted for Texas… it’s ready to go,” she added.

School choice is a Texas GOP priority but proved a divisive issue within the Republican House majority during the last legislative session.

Legislation backed by Gov. Greg Abbott, which included education savings accounts, failed to pass in the House, leading Abbott to target school choice opponents during the March GOP primary.

Dunbar’s plan addresses concerns of both defenders of the current public education system who claim school choice would “defund” government schools, as well as those who fear the “strings” that could be tied to ESAs or vouchers because those funds flow through government hands.

“We don’t want the government’s money,” Dunbar said Monday.

According to Dunbar, the Education Emancipation Act would allow families to claim an exemption to their school property taxes.

“A tax exemption is not government dollars… it’s your money,” she said, adding that the distinction is “hugely important” for avoiding government intrusions into how parents choose to educate their children.

“Because if it’s not that way, if it ever makes its way into the public coffers and then is appropriated as a voucher or something else into your hands, guess what can come with it? Yes, regulatory control,” she said.

And that is why the other side in this game is rushing to try to make sure that in terms of school choice, we don’t choose a good option and coalesce and get up in front of it and make sure people know that we have a way to do this where they don’t get any regulatory control.

Dunbar’s plan also includes corporate tax exemptions to fund scholarships for students to afford to go to private school or homeschool.

“It’s not a perfect fix in the sense that if you don’t own property, you can’t get an exemption… So it doesn’t hit everyone,” she explained.

She also noted it won’t be a dollar-for-dollar fix. However, it will pull dollars out of local school districts’ coffers for students they’re not educating and help countless families who are fed up with the current government school system but need help affording other options.

“I believe education is the lynchpin issue. If you don’t go after education, you lose everything… When over 90 percent of society is being effectively indoctrinated with our own tax dollars, how do we take over any issue?” she said.

She called the current system a monopoly and said local school districts don’t want to share their control.

“How do you get rid of a monopoly?” she asked. “Competition.”

“We’re not looking to the government to fix all of our problems,” she added.

Burden encouraged delegates to this month’s Republican Party of Texas Convention to approve a resolution in support of the Education Emancipation Act.

“In the 89th session, we’re going to pass school choice. The question is, which form of school choice are we going to pass,” said Burden.

Burden and Dunbar believe Abbott and lawmakers are open to a tax exemption program.

Dunbar also intends to seek support for the Education Emancipation Act at the national level but said she hopes Texas will lead the way.

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