Commentary: There Is No School Choice Without Education Freedom - Texas Scorecard

In the past two years, homeschooling has increased by no less than 300 percent. Just a few years ago, more than 90 percent of all Texas students were educated in public schools. Today, one out of every eight students is homeschooled, and one out of every five is educated outside of the traditional public school system.

For the first time in decades, the overall enrollment of Texas public schools is declining, even in the midst of massive waves of out-of-state businesses and political refugees moving to Texas. And yet, candidates for school board elections would have you believe that this shift to homeschooling is about facilities and the need for destination districts. The truth is that since 2020, Texas parents learned the following things about their school districts:

  • STAAR testing is destroying our schools.
  • It doesn’t take eight hours to complete a day’s worth of instruction.
  • Homosexuality has been completely normalized in public schools, and there is great peer pressure to experiment with bisexuality.
  • Kids are taught that there are multiple genders and are required to refer to others according to their chosen gender pronouns, including animals or inanimate objects.
  • Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) are embedded in curriculum coming from nationwide companies (even after being “banned” via HB 3979).

Texas parents who lack the financial means to educate their children using homeschool or private school are faced with the impossible dilemma of sending their kids to schools that will corrupt their children with cultural Marxism and moral relativism. At the same time, public educators are concerned that falling revenue resulting from plummeting enrollment will negatively impact the quality of public education. Well-funded public educator lobbies work against parents and students to protect the funding of the current system at all costs.

Changing nothing is not an option. The trajectory of Texas public schools has spiraled downward ever since the Department of Education began extorting school districts with the promise of “free money” (with strings). When one out of five Texans opts out of “the system,” change is mandatory.

Indeed, the one-size-fits-all approach to education is a fairly recent concept. In many cases, even our grandparents had a more varied and personal education, without state or federal testing, curriculum, and standards. Imagine a generation that went to the moon and invented the cell phone and the internet without standardized testing.

While central government naturally gravitates to one-size-fits-all approaches to nearly everything from road bases to healthcare, the “solutions” rarely end up being more affordable or effective than locally driven, privately engineered endeavors. When history looks back at our era, they will likely note that the ubiquity of and easy access to information via the internet, combined with a gradual shift of professional labor back to the homestead, drove the shift toward primary and secondary educational diversity.

In the midst of this shift, there is a move afoot to scam Texans with a voucher plan that, at first glance, would seem to help homeschooling and private schooling parents, but will inevitably destroy the movement. “Vouchers” or “Educational Savings Accounts” (ESA) will ultimately bait parents to allow government to first collect tax dollars from citizens, and then graciously return that money if the parents agree to use “approved” curriculum and services.

The state is still sovereign, creating the rules and regulations that parents must follow in order to have their tax dollars returned to them so they can “educate their children in whatever manner they see fit.”

This is ironic since they would have to follow the government’s rules instead of having the right to make their own decisions about their children’s education.

It is nearly the exact same strategy that the federal government has taken to destroy public education in the first place, by stealing money from the states, and then extorting local districts by offering them federal dollars if they agree to abide by the federal standards put in place by the Department of Education. Districts are forced to sink to the lowest common denominator of mediocrity in a one-size-fits-all system.

At first, we will be told that only parents who use vouchers or take money from ESAs will be subject to “reasonable” standards, pushed by the very braintrust that has been at work corrupting our public schools. The number of citizens who begin homeschooling or private schooling their kids will increase greatly.

And the argument will inevitably be made: “Why do some people get to homeschool their kids with zero oversight, while everyone else has to adhere to Texas-defined standards?”

As soon as this happens, we will be right back on the same path, except that the freedom-loving, independent homeschooler will be so marginalized that there will be no organized army to defend the hill. At that point, all education will again become “public education.”

Currently, school funding is directly tied to enrollment. If a voucher or ESA system is enacted, this will remove “butts in seats,” putting positive pressure on public schools to perform and compete. The natural retaliatory effect of government will be to take control of the competition, in order to avoid actual competition.

Consider what is happening now even without a voucher/ESA plan: Public schools are failing so profoundly that parents are willing to pay “twice” for education in record numbers. Our Texas legislators, the vast majority of whom are heavily funded by Texans for Public Education, will not let laissez-faire homeschooling continue on its present track.

So, given all this, what does the Republican Party of Texas seek to preserve? What principles do we seek to advance for future generations?

Educational freedom.

Texas is unique. We must not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the flavor of school choice adopted by other states.

Texas school choice shall not be characterized by vouchers or educational savings accounts. These are just strategies for creating additional government bureaucracies to register, license, and police schools into conforming to their standards, and to give citizens back money that they shouldn’t have paid in the first place.

At this crucial time, it is imperative that we demand real school choice that puts parents in control rather than government bureaucracies. The right of parents to educate their children without strings or scrutiny is undoubtedly a natural right that should rightfully be enshrined in the Texas Bill of Rights.

Therefore, we ask the Republican Party of Texas to add the following plank to the platform and declare it a priority for the 88th Legislative Session—a constitutional amendment that protects our families from government seeking to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to education by:

  • presuming that parents act in the best interest of their children;
  • preserving the ability of parents to educate their children as they see fit;
  • and allowing parents to use whatever funds they have at their disposal, obtained by whatever means,
  • all without government intrusion or scrutiny.

Further, the RPT should call for any change to the structure of the funding of public education to be entirely conditional upon the ratification of an amendment enshrining these fundamental and natural rights of parents. At this critical juncture, it is imperative that the RPT stands for the rights of parents and children and seeks safeguards for future generations of Texans to be educated freely and without government involvement.

Without these rights consecrated in our Constitution, any attempts at addressing school finance will certainly weaken the independence of private and home schools to the point that they will ultimately be fully regulated by the state.

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.