With the start of the legislative session fast approaching, advocates for school choice reform are jockeying to set forward proposals they believe will benefit all Texans. And one proposal received encouragement from Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.
At the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation on Wednesday afternoon, the organization unveiled a comprehensive report it had commissioned jointly with the Texas Association of Business. Arthur Laffer, a conservative economist who rose to prominence in the Reagan administration, authored the report “The Texas Economy and School Choice.”
Legislation creating a school choice program has been authored by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels). Her initiative, Senate Bill 276, would provide eligible parents with a “Taxpayer Savings Grant” in an amount up to 60% of what the state spends per-student on annual maintenance and operation, which would be $5,100 currently.
“These dollars do not belong to school districts. They belong to taxpayers and are held in trust for our children,” said Campbell.
She also touted the benefits that a number of private schools are having in communities with failing public schools.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure every Texas child has access to a first class education,” said Campbell. “No child should be trapped in a school that isn’t up to community or state standards.”
Lieutenant Governor Elect Dan Patrick, who made school choice legislation a central pillar of his campaign, attended the event as well.
“We are not taking any money away from any superintendent in any school district.” Said Patrick, addressing concerns that he believed would be raised in response to the proposal.
Potential benefits of passing the legislation wouldn’t be limited to Texas parents and their children; the state could stand to prosper as a result as well. Analysis by the Texas Education Agency estimates the state could save almost $2 billion during the first five years of implementation.
In his report, Laffer called the Taxpayer Savings Grant a “win-win-win for everyone in the state.” According to his research, Texas’ GDP could increase by 17-30% and the state could see a significant reduction in crime, assuming that the dropout rate at private schools remaining much lower than their public school counterparts.