Texas Considers School Choice Again

Published September 22, 2016

Texas state lawmakers are considering an education savings accounts program, which would be the state’s first private school choice program if passed. Texas is the last major holdout among Republican-led states to not offer a private school choice program, although it’s not for lack of trying.

Conservative activists and policy organizations have been pushing Texas lawmakers to catch up their state, yet they keep running into a confluence of public education lobbyists and rural Republican lawmakers scared of angering what is often the largest employer in their districts (local public schools). School choice champion Dan Patrick is now lieutenant governor, but this bigger bully pulpit may be less practically effective than his former position chairing the Senate education committee.

The legislative logjam stymies Texas voters’ preferences. New research from EdChoice finds a nearly 40-point margin in favor of school vouchers among Texas voters, and nearly as big a margin in favor of education savings accounts. Fifty-five percent of Texas voters think education in the state is “on the wrong track,” compared to just 33 percent who think it’s going in “the right direction.”

The EdChoice gives only nationwide numbers for state lawmakers on these issues, not numbers specific to Texas. Sixty-one percent of state lawmakers across the country support education savings accounts and 30 percent oppose them, the national poll finds. It also finds approximately half of state lawmakers think education in their state is going “in the right direction.” So if we assume Texas lawmakers approximate the nationwide numbers, perhaps the explanation for their refusal to satisfy Texans’ desire for school choice is they simply don’t think they need it that much.

As a former public school teacher who sponsored a similar bill in Nevada explained to the Texas legislature recently, however, lawmakers who are resting on their laurels are doing their constituents a disservice. Each child needs different things from school, and it’s not fair to ask every school to perform every service for every child. Much more efficient and sensible is to let schools specialize and diversify.

This session, Texas lawmakers have yet another chance to bring their sclerotic public education system out of the Industrial Era–and given their demographics and budget woes, they’d better do it soon.

SOURCES: Choice Media, EdChoice, JayPGreene.com, Texas Public Radio


School Choice Roundup

  • FED MEDDLING: Private school choice programs have more than doubled in enrollment in the past four years, and the federal government is concerned it doesn’t have enough control over how these programs and students interact. The Government Accountability Office has done a study examining the level of regulations on participating private schools, concluding choice “complicates” federal subsidies and programs.

Common Core and Curriculum Watch

  • OREGON: Common Core tests do not provide speedy results, as promised, and they tend to take instructional time away from kids who need it most, a new state audit finds.

Education Today

  • EDUCATION RESEARCH: Federal “reports of best evidence reflect only a tiny proportion of the available literature and summary judgments are often based on the results from relatively few students. In addition, they can be misleading, contrasting sharply with conclusions reached through the widely accepted, traditional methods of summarizing evidence,” finds a new study.

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