To gauge sentiment on education policy, Texas Scorecard surveyed more than 25,000 educators in the Lone Star State – and then asked the same question of our readers.
For a variety of reasons, and from a variety of perspectives, education is front-and-center in the public debate. As we approach the start of the 2023 legislative session, which of these comes closest to how you think Texas lawmakers should approach education policy?
The options included purposefully “extreme” positions in both directions:
- Ban Home / Private Schools
- Regulate Home / Private Schools
- More Tax Money Into Government Schools
- Allow Tax Dollars To ‘Fund Students, Not Systems’
- Expand Charter Schools
- Abolish Public Education As It Exists Today
More than 62 percent of teachers surveyed want to ban or strictly regulate home and private school options. Another 32.9 percent want more money put into the public school system.
Just under 4 percent of teachers want any sort of “choice” for parents, whether it is expanding charter schools or allowing tax dollars to “follow” the student to a public, private, or parochial school selected by the parents.
Conversely, 66.7 percent of Texas Scorecard readers prefer lawmakers adopt a system by which the dollars “fund students, not systems.” Another 4.6 percent want to expand charter schools. Notably, more than 25 percent indicated they wanted to “abolish public education as it exists today.”
Less than 2 percent of readers want to ban or regulate home and private schools, while 1.8 percent say more money is needed in the government school system.
[For a sampling of reader responses, click here.]
AT THE BALLOT BOX
On the March 1, 2022, Republican primary ballot, 87 percent of voters agreed with this ballot position: “Texas parents and guardians should have the right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.”
In raw numbers, there were 1,954,172 votes cast in the GOP gubernatorial race – with 1.3 million going to incumbent Greg Abbott. On the “school choice” question, 1,901,862 Republicans cast votes – with 1.7 million in support of the language quoted above.
Put succinctly: having education funding “follow the student” between public and private schools outperformed Gov. Abbott.
WHY IT MATTERS
Education policy and financing have emerged as hot-button issues, from the skyrocketing burden of school property taxes to the imposition of “critical race theory” and “gender politics” in many K-12 classrooms. The Republican Party of Texas’ convention delegates this summer made “parental rights and education freedom” one of their eight legislative priorities.
“Parents are the primary decision makers for their children in all matters. This authority shall be protected as an inalienable right. This shall include the choice of schooling where the money follows the child without strings attached, and enforcement and penalty mechanisms when parents’ rights are violated. The right to education shall be free from any social theories,” reads the delegate-adopted priority.
The Texas GOP gained significant ground in Texas’ November election, increasing pressure on Republican lawmakers to address – and deliver – the party faithful’s priorities in the 2-23 legislative session.
Historically, lawmakers have ignored their party base on issues like “school choice” – putting instead a priority on appeasing the Democrat-leaning block of public school employees in their districts.
In recent weeks, legislators from safe Republican districts loyal to moderate House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) have tested the water in pushing against Abbott – and the party faithful. Phelan himself has rejected the push for significant property tax relief.
The 88th Session of the Texas Legislature begins on Jan. 10, 2023.