More and more parents across Texas want the power to choose the best education for their own children—yet the Republican-controlled state Legislature and taxpayer-funded lobbyist unions continue to be their main opponents.
The Texas Association of School Boards—a behemoth statewide tax-funded lobbying group for school officials—will soon announce their priorities for the upcoming 2023 state legislative session. If their positions are anything like last time, they’ll be persuading legislators to withhold power and education funds from parents.
During the 2021 session, TASB’s priorities included stopping “vouchers,” i.e. school choice, which would directly fund students and families rather than the current government-run school system.
“TASB calls upon the Texas Legislature to prevent any transfer of public education funds through the use of vouchers, savings accounts, or tax credits to private or out-of-state entities, including the unfettered expansion of virtual instruction by corporations,” the group’s website reads.
They also “call[ed] upon the Texas Legislature to prohibit the expansion of charter schools.”
Meanwhile, the campaign for school choice is again sweeping the state and nation. Since the COVID shutdowns of 2020, parents have seen more of what was happening in their children’s classrooms (discovering sexually explicit and racist materials), as well as the opportunities for better education.
Indeed, the evidence in Texas is growing: A 2022 Morning Consult poll showed that 77 percent of public school parents in the state support directly funding students instead of the system, and 88 percent of Texas Republican voters supported school choice in this year’s March statewide primary election.
“It’s time for Texas to fund students, not systems,” said Corey DeAngelis, the national director of research at the American Federation for Children. “After all, education funding is supposed to be meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution. The funding belongs to the student, not the institution.”
As exemplified by TASB, the main opponents are unions, lobbyists, corporations, and bureaucracies that collect untold millions in yearly dues, contracts, and salaries from the current monopoly school system—regardless of the educational results.
“So, of course they want to get that $13,000 per kid, regardless of the choice of the families, and I don’t really blame them,” DeAngelis told Texas Scorecard. “That’s not a problem with the employees in the system. Again, it’s the problem with the system itself. The money goes to the buildings, regardless of how well they do. Instead, like every other industry, the money should follow the child.”
School choice is once again a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas, and a growing crowd of state officials are publicly supporting it—including Gov. Greg Abbott. Though he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick let the issue fade for the last several years (and the Republican-controlled state Legislature soundly quashed the effort in the 2021 session), they and others are now following the trend.
“Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school, or private school, with state funding following the student,” Abbott said in May.
“Arizona has been a leader in child education freedom for years,” State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) recently told Texas Scorecard. “Their recent adoption of a child education freedom program to offer access to Empowerment Savings Accounts to virtually all students is the gold standard of funding students rather than systems. Texas students deserve the same consideration as their counterparts in Arizona. Parents should be empowered to choose the best school to meet the needs of their child.”
“It’s past time Texas leads on this, and I look forward to getting school choice passed next session,” said State Rep. Brain Harrison (R–Waxahacie).
Over the next few months and into the 2023 Texas legislative session, state lawmakers will be making decisions on important education policies for the statewide public school system. Concerned citizens may contact their state representative, senator, and Gov. Abbott.