District 5 councilwoman testifies against school voucher bill, says ‘it will impact school funding’

Councilwoman Teri Castillo says proposed school voucher bill could harm public school districts in her area

SAN ANTONIO – Texas legislators are back in the Capitol discussing a bill that would create a school voucher program.

Currently, every student is allotted money from the state, and it all goes to public schools. The Education Savings Account would allow parents to choose whether that money will go to public schools or a private school of their choice.

On Thursday, Texas senators approved Senate Bill 1, a voucher-like program that would create an education savings account, allowing families to choose where they want to send their child’s $8,000 in taxpayer money.

San Antonio District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo testified against the bill at the Capitol on Monday.

Four of the five school districts within her district are having or discussing school closures.

South San Antonio ISD, San Antonio ISD, and Harlandale ISD are making plans for school closure, and Edgewood ISD is beginning conversations around school closures.

“We’re seeing these closures because of a low birth rate, the role of charter schools and the lack of affordable housing. And when we look at how charter schools are lined up all throughout the district, essentially, our kids are going to these schools. And what that means is less money for our public schools,” Castillo said.

Castillo said the proposed bill could cause more public school closures, forcing parents to drive outside their neighborhoods to take their children to school. She advocates for public schools because parents can take their grievances to a school board.

“They can’t afford to commute to the nearest public school. And with that, with a decrease in enrollment, it will impact school funding. And then we’ll continue to have these conversations about school closures,” Castillo said.

Inga Cotton with San Antonio Charter Moms said she is neutral about the proposed education savings account bill.

She said her role is to help inform parents about what type of experience they want for their child— public, private or charter — saying some public and charter schools have STEM-based, college readiness programs.

“Is this the path to a brighter future for their students? So we see our job as this information source and helping families understand the landscape more so than try to push one way or another,” Cotton said.

District 5, located in the central West Side, is one of the most historically impoverished and redlined parts of San Antonio.

Castillo said the education savings account option could further impact this area’s access to quality education.

“District 5, in particular, (has) had a history of student walkouts and Supreme Court lawsuits to fight for a just education. And what we’re seeing now, and what I’m hearing from my community members, is that continued struggle and fight to ensure that our children and our community continue to have access to quality schools,” Castillo said.

The bill is heading to the Texas House for further discussion.

About the Authors:

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.