Texas Lieutenant Governor Calls School Choice ‘Top Priority’

Published February 5, 2016

At a state think tank’s annual convention, Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick (R) announced his commitment to promoting school choice in the state, calling education reform his “top priority.”

Patrick participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in January, joining Nevada Lieutenant Gov. Mark Hutchison (R) and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (D-TX), to discuss the future of education reform in Texas and in other states.

‘Systemic Reform’

Brittany Corona, government relations director at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, says Patrick’s commitment to education reform is sorely needed.

“Lieutenant Gov. Patrick, along with key members of the legislature, support educational choice because they know it will create systemic reform of the Texas education system, which the state needs,” Corona said. “This reform has the power to influence many other areas of public policy. However, the only other main education reform under consideration that will likely correlate with school choice is the Texas Supreme Court ruling on the state’s education funding system.

“School choice is an efficacious way for Texas to address its funding issue, by allowing parents to direct their children’s education dollars to the school—or curricula, in the case of education savings accounts—that best meets their education needs.”

Power to the Parents

Corona says giving parents a larger say in their children’s education is the key to producing better educational outcomes.

“In conceptualizing school choice programs, Milton Friedman once acknowledged it is fairer, more effective, and far more efficient to separate the government financing of education from the government running of schools,” Corona said. “Since 1970, America has increasingly centralized our education system on the federal and state levels. Since then, the federal government has spent over $2 trillion dollars on education alone.

“School choice reforms push back this narrative of increased government intervention and centralization of the education system, by empowering those closest to the children, namely parents and teachers, with education decision making authority,” she said.

All Aboard the Reform Train

Lloyd Bentsen, a senior research fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, says Texas lawmakers strongly support school choice.

“School choice, both public and private, has been a top priority of reformers in Texas for several legislative sessions now,” Bentsen said. “From 2003 to 2010, the number of students that left public schools for homeschools increased by 50 percent, and by 75 percent for those leaving for private schools.”

Bentsen says more parents are benefitting from leaving the government school monopoly.

“Parents are taking their children out of public schools for many reasons, including to provide better special education, where public schools are failing,” Bentsen said. “The portion of [Texas] public school students receiving a special education designation in recent years is at an all-time low of 8.8 percent, the lowest in the nation. Private school choice programs, with proven success in other states for students with disabilities, could benefit these students.”

D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.