Dear Partners in Mission:
In our Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation) liturgy we are admonished to “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” In our assent to that statement then we are called, as baptized Christians, to be public with our faith which includes our lives within our communities. This means that our faith should primarily impact the way we interact with the political and economic worlds in which we also operate. It is in the spirit of this commitment I made at my confirmation, and my ordination vows, that I share this with you.
Throughout 2023 the Texas Legislature has consistently been faced with the issue of providing public money (taxes) for private education. These vouchers have been presented as “school choice” or “education savings accounts” by those encouraging their adoption including our Governor Greg Abbott. The Texas House has, in bipartisan fashion, consistently rejected the adoption of such vouchers. Despite this rejection the Governor continues to call special sessions of the legislature, as he is empowered to do by our constitution, to attempt to gain passage of vouchers.
I have consistently and publicly opposed vouchers for a number of reasons and encourage you to do the same. Voucher programs, particularly those now presented, do not aid the vast majority of Texas children. In fact the current proposal offers more funding per student in vouchers than the state provides per student for public education. Public education which the Texas Constitution requires the Governor and legislature to provide and fund. Across the country we have seen when vouchers are implemented they effectively serve as a subsidy for those already choosing private education. For example, the current voucher proposal would pay less than 50% of the cost of tuition at most private schools. Tuition that only some families can afford.
Across our territory, particularly in our rural communities, private school education is not only not available but any decrease in funding would harm the schools that are the heart of many of our small towns. Private schools are not accountable to state testing, do not have to accept students who have learning challenges, and also do not have to provide transportation for those who would desire to attend. Sadly I see many in faith communities who are advocating for vouchers are those who would financially gain from their passage. This is not equity and it is certainly not just.
Texans have long prided ourselves in having limited state governance. Allowing local communities choice. As people of faith in Texas (not forgetting our Louisiana communities, but this is currently a Texas issue) we are called to speak to our elected leaders and say enough. Four special sessions of the legislature, costing millions of dollars, to pass a program rejected by a bipartisan legislature, is enough. As a synod we work with Texas Impact in our public voice. You can sign and send your representatives a letter at this link. I encourage you to educate yourself on this issue and call our elected leaders to account. Public money (tax dollars) should pay for public schools. Those who desire to send their children to private education have that choice but the state should not pay for it.
As Christians living in society we face many difficult and challenging decisions. My hope is that we will approach them with prayer and humility, asking God to guide us.