Gov. Greg Abbott is continuing to double down on his support for school choice legislation, as National School Choice Week is recognized across the country.
It’s National #SchoolChoiceWeek.
Parents know what is best for their children’s education.
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) January 23, 2023
National School Choice Week has been recognized every January since 2011. A project of the Florida-based National School Choice Awareness Foundation, the weeklong event “informs, inspires, and empowers parents to discover the K-12 education options available for their children, while generating widespread public awareness of the importance of opportunity in K-12 education.”
During the week, participating schools host community outreach events where attendees can receive the movement’s iconic yellow scarves, and politicians speak at gatherings to promote school choice.
In the context of the annual event, “school choice” refers to awareness of all K-12 education options, from traditional public schools to charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, and online learning. In recent years, however, the term has come to refer to the availability of state-funded alternatives to public schools and the effort to expand those alternatives so that parents have the financial freedom to choose the education that’s best for their children.
Texas is one of 45 states that allow charter schools, but lawmakers have not authorized state funding for any other form of K-12 alternative to public education, making Texas one of 19 states to share this distinction. Efforts to pass school choice legislation in Texas have failed repeatedly since the mid-1990s, though several bills have received the approval of the Senate only to be killed in the House, the most recent such occurrence being in 2017.
A lot has changed in the intervening years, however, and school choice advocates believe the momentum is on their side during the current legislative session.
Discontent and anger sparked by public school administrators’ typical response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the indoctrination of students through critical race theory and radical sexual ideologies have fueled the recent push for school choice, and prominent political power brokers have staked out positions on both sides of the issue.
Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the Republican Party of Texas have indicated they expect lawmakers to deliver on parents’ demand for school choice, while Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Association of School Boards have expressed varying degrees of opposition to this effort. State and national advocacy organizations like the Texas Home School Coalition, the Texas State Teachers Association, and the American Federation for Children are also getting involved, setting the stage for an intense debate in the coming months.
Republican legislators in the House and Senate have already filed at least three bills to create school choice programs.
Patrick recently announced Senate committee assignments and will begin referring bills to committees within the next few weeks. Phelan is expected to do the same in the House once he assigns members to committees. Committees can begin considering bills after the 30th day of the session on February 9, but neither chamber can vote on legislation before March 11 unless Gov. Abbott designates it as an emergency item.