As parents and children prepare for a new school year, the discussion about school choice continues to be a hot topic.
A new poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler asked more than 1,000 registered Texas voters about their opinion on school choice, elected officials, and other issues. Among the group, 33 percent were Democrats, 40 percent were Republicans, and 27 percent had no party affiliation.
School choice allows public education funds to follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs, regardless of whether they opt for a public, private, or charter school.
Among the group of voters surveyed, 69 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Democrats said they support school choice. Sixty-six percent of Latino voters and 67 percent of black voters said they support school choice.
Despite claims that school choice would not benefit every student, advocates say the program would work to empower parents to make the best educational choices for their children, based on their child’s specific needs and interests.
“It’s time for Texas to fund students, not systems. After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution,” said Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow for the American Federation for Children. “The funding belongs to the student, not the institution.”
Proponents also say school choice benefits children by allowing them to attend schools that would be the best fit for their learning styles, rather than a one-size-fits-all style that public education has adopted.
“We force millions of kids to go to residentially assigned government-run institutions that are, by definition, a one-size-fits-all system that is not going to work for families who just inherently disagree about how they want their kids raised and how they want their kids to be educated,” DeAngelis said.
During a recent hearing of the Texas House Public Education Committee, parents came to testify in support of school choice and revealed their frustration with the current education system.
“It is a crisis of systematic complacency and convenience,” said Rachel Hale, whose children were among the 300 percent increase of students who left public school. “I can understand why you legislators and school districts are confused by parents being up in arms when we’ve trusted the system and allowed you to buy school supplies and act in the role of parents. We were asleep at the wheel. However, that is no longer the case.”
While the debate continues, Gov. Greg Abbott has given his support for parents to choose, and many voters across the aisle have shown an interest in the measure as we near the 2023 legislative session.