Ted Cruz recently spoke at a school choice rally in Houston, celebrating the kickoff of National School Choice Week. Thousands of similar rallies all over the country are scheduled, as school choice initiatives in over 23 states are growing in both success and popularity.
Texas is not on that list.
As a result, reports estimate that over 315,000 children, many in poor urban areas, are trapped in schools the state has categorized as “failing”. We’ve previously emphasized the need for substantive education reforms that would better address the needs of individual students.
As Cruz enthusiastically stated:
“In my view, school choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century … Democrats and Republicans should be united on this issue.”
Over 84 percent of Republican primary voters agree with Cruz, who stated they want to empower parents and improve efficiency by allowing funding to follow the child. On the May, 2012 Republican primary ballot, voters supported the below language:
The state should fund education by allowing dollars to follow the child instead of the bureaucracy, through a program which allows parents the freedom to choose their child’s school, public or private, while also saving significant taxpayer dollars.
Taxpayer champion and TFR’s lieutenant governor endorsee, Sen. Dan Patrick, introduced legislation in 2013 to give businesses tax credits for creating scholarship funds that would provide tuition assistance to low-income children trapped in failing schools.
Unfortunately, politicians from both parties united in opposition against such reforms.
F-rated liberal Democrat, Rep. Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi—with the help of ‘F-rated’ Republican Bennett Ratliff of Coppell—offered an anti-choice amendment to explicitly prohibit similar measures. (Rep. Ratliff is the brother of State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, who appears to be illegally working as a lobbyist for education issues.)
Taxpayer champion, Rep. Scott Turner of Frisco, passionately opposed the school choice prohibition. He also recently announced his intent to run for House Speaker, challenging Rep. Joe Straus, who has historically received support by all 55 Democrats and unapologetic moderates like Ratliff.
Increased choice and competition would also help lower costs and improve efficiency in public education, as traditional proposals only aim to throw more money at schools.
In the last decade, total inflation-adjusted spending notably outpaced enrollment growth. And for every teacher in classrooms, there is now one non-instructional staff member, on average. CBS publicized similar findings in a local news segment.
The staffing surge was most famously highlighted in an extensive study by the Friedman Foundation, which used federal government data. Their findings were astonishing.
If staffing levels in Texas since 1992 grew proportionally, or at the same pace as student enrollment, taxpayers today would save over $6.3 billion annually on payroll expenses alone … all without increasing classrooms sizes.
Ratliff’s father, and former Lt. Gov., was the chief architect of “Robin Hood”, the State’s current funding formula that’s been challenged twice on constitutional grounds. It effectively amounts to a state property tax. It’s also arbitrary, complicated and inefficient.
Not only has Rep. Ratliff voted against parents and students, he’s also voted against teachers.
Currently their retirement fund has $24 billion in unfunded liabilities. When an opportunity was presented to end Hollywood Film subsidizes and, instead, fund future shortfalls, Ratliff chose Hollywood.
Adding insult to injury, Ratliff voted for a 12 percent increase in his own pension.
According to both conservative and non-political organizations, Ratliff’s record is one of the most liberal among house Republicans. A Rice University study that analyzed 836 record votes ranked him near the bottom. He received a score of 65 from Texas Eagle Forum, a 52 from Young Conservatives of Texas and a 25 from The Grassroots Texans Network.
If Republicans want the policies they care about enacted in Austin, they need to replace representatives from within their own party.
Fortunately for Texans in Northwest Dallas County, Matt Rinaldi is offering voters a principled, conservative alternative in the 2014 primary.
Election day is on March 4.