Newsline , Society

Texas Lags Behind Other Red States in School Choice Revolution

Posted on Monday, May 29, 2023
by AMAC Newsline

AMAC Exclusive – By Aaron Flanigan

Over the last year, legislators in a number of red and purple states have advanced legislation creating universal school choice for K-12 students—ushering in a historically encouraging moment for advocates of freedom in education. But despite the accelerating momentum of the school choice movement, Texas—which has often stood on the front lines of conservative priorities and pro-family causes—is oddly lagging behind.

Late Saturday, a bill that school choice advocates hoped would make it through the Republican-controlled legislature officially died, marking a frustrating conclusion to the state legislative, which ends on Memorial Day. School choice has been a rare political roadblock for Republicans in the Lone Star State, particularly at the end of a year that has yielded flagship legislative victories like banning dangerous and experimental transgender surgeries for children and cracking down on fentanyl distribution (both of which have passed the Republican-led state legislature but have yet to be signed into law by Governor Abbott).

According to The Dallas Morning News, the school choice bill—which would have provided Texas families with $8,000 in private school tuition or homeschooling costs—faced backlash not only from Democrats, but also from some rural Republicans who fear the legislation would hurt schools in their districts.

The Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers denounced the legislation as a “scam” that would eliminate “transparency and public accountability”—a sentiment shared by a handful of Texas Republicans. “Several Republicans that represent rural parts of the state said they’re still skeptical for a lot of the same old reasons: a dearth of private schools in sparsely populated areas, a fear of funneling money away from public schools and a lack of transparency,” the Morning News reported.

In an attempt to remedy these concerns, Governor Abbott, along with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based conservative think tank, launched a series of “parent empowerment” events in rural parts of the state to rally support around the bill. Republicans also amended the legislation with provisions that would, for example, deliver pay raises for teachers as well as “hefty payments to public schools for every student they lose” to assuage the concerns of rural Republicans currently sitting on the fence.

However, the legislature ultimately failed to deliver on what Governor Abbott had identified as a major priority for this session.

Despite the setback, school choice advocates in Texas—including some from rural districts—feel confident that the provisions contained in the failed legislation will deliver for rural communities. “I represent rural counties as well. I feel like parents more than ever before, they deserve these options and they know what’s best for their kids,” said State Senator Brandon Creighton. “It will be interesting to see where the discussion goes through the rest of the session. I’m expecting success.”

Abbott, too, has pushed back against the charge that a state voucher program would disenfranchise public schools in rural areas. “Just like charter schools did not defund private schools in the state of Texas, neither will school choice in the state of Texas,” he said in March. “Wherever school choice is used, public education improves.”

Earlier this year, Abbott threatened to call legislators back for a special session this summer if they failed to send school choice legislation to his desk. Now, school choice advocates are hoping he makes good on that promise.

If Texas Republicans can manage to pass a bill, the Lone Star State would join a growing legion of red and purple states that have enacted greater education freedom for students and parents. As AMAC Newsline has previously reported, dating back to 2021, six states—including West Virginia, Arizona, Iowa, and Florida—have passed legislation emboldening parents to send their children to schools of their choice as Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, and other forms of left-wing indoctrination become more pervasive in American public schools. North Carolina Republicans are also on the brink of passing a similar legislative package.

“Empowering parents to choose the best educational path for their child remains an essential priority this session. A majority of Texans from across the state and from all backgrounds support expanding school choice,” Abbott said in a May 14 press release.

For decades, Texans have long sought to cement their state’s reputation as a champion for pro-family, pro-freedom, and pro-children causes. Now, parents and students will be looking to Governor Abbott and the GOP-controlled state legislature to do the same on school choice.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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6 months ago

Of course, Texas is slow to embrace home-schooling and private schools.
Most Texas schools have not gone woke-crazy.
But, when the schools go woke, the legislature will act.

Texas Resister 64
Texas Resister 64
6 months ago

The public schools have effective voices in the legislature, and they have Democrats sewn tight in their bag. AFT and NEA control so much in the House that school choice has been a loser every time. I know one “Catholic” former state senator who, when asked why she didn’t support helping parochial schools, and allowing parents to make the choice of where to educate children, she said “I don’t trust parents with that decision.” Yes, she is a democrat.

6 months ago

This is the root cause of why the Texas bill failed: “Republicans also amended the legislation with provisions that would, for example, deliver pay raises for teachers as well as “hefty payments to public schools for every student they lose” to assuage the concerns of rural Republicans currently sitting on the fence.”

The whole point of school choice is to foster both competition to the union-controlled teachers unions that are ALL on board with the Progressive agenda of systemic indoctrination of our youth, but also teach the teachers unions that there is a real-world economic and jobs cost to their adhering to the leftist agenda. In really simple terms, if parents are offered school choice that provides their children with a quality education without having a Progressive agenda rammed down their throats each and every day, lots and lots of Texas families will flock to that alternative. Thus the public schools would either have to adopt a far less politicized curriculum and dump the woke garbage or a lot of public schools would end up closing. Which of course would put a lot of Progressive teachers out of work. In the private sector, this is called supply and demand. When a new business offers a better product that people prefer, the old business either adapts to the what the people want or they go out of business. YOU DON’T HAVE THE TAXPAYERS OF TEXAS SUBSIDIZE THE OLD BUSINESS, BECAUSE IT DOESN’T OFFER WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT ANYMORE.

So I am not surprised the bill died in the State Legislature, if the Texas Legislature not only inserted language into the bill that would have caused Texas taxpayers to subsidize schools that DON’T deliver what the parents of the state want for their children, but also offered to provide pay raises to the Progressive teachers are the root of the public school problem. If a public school loses a high percentage of its students to school choice alternatives, that is what happens when you’re not providing a product the public wants. This isn’t rocket science. At least it shouldn’t be. However, it seems some members of the Texas Legislature need to attend a basic ECON 101 class to understand how things are supposed to work. NOT turn around and try to craft what amounts to a taxpayer supported bail-out provision for doing public schools doing a bad job.

6 months ago

First of all I am totally for school choice but here is the problem in Texas. Actually there are two major problems. The first is that Texas is still largely small town/rural. I live in a small town and we have two elementary schools, one junior high (still call it that) and one high school. We have one Christian school in an adjacent town but it is small. In addition it requires you find the way to get your kids there. They don’t provide transportation. So where are the choices here? Some of the parents have enrolled their children in a Christian school in a town that is about 35 miles away but it requires someone to drive that distance twice a day to get the children there and back – if you can afford the tuition. There are not enough that enroll to do things like carpools or provide another type of transportation. Many can’t afford both the tuition and transportation costs so there are few takers. That’s the situation in a large portion of Texas so you’re not going to get the support of these small towns.

The second is that the small towns fear losing the funding they need to keep their schools afloat because of their smaller tax bases.

My grandchildren live in Harris County but in Katy not in Houston. My grandson attends a regular middle school and our granddaughter has been attending a Charter School for several years and wants to continue to attend one now that she is going into middle school. I want choices for them. My grandson’s middle school is pretty good but he will be in 8th grade next school year and I worry that he is not going to be challenged enough to keep him interested even though he will be attending a couple advanced classes next year. There is too much incentive these days with the teachers’ unions to dumb down our public education systems not to mention indoctrinate the children.

I would definitely vote for school choice for the sake of my grandchildren but I do understand the concerns of the smaller school districts of which Texas has many.

Gabe Hanzeli
Gabe Hanzeli
6 months ago

The answer to just about all of the current school issues and social issues is 100% school vouchers which the american citizen parents give the school a government issues check monthly. non-citizens do not get vouchers.

All the garbage ends over night if the school has to satisfy the parents rather then the union and leftist teachers.

If those leftist teachers want a paycheck and benefits they will have to learn to be more centrist. They will have to learn to teach English, math, reading, real history, and science. something that our current leftist teachers are very bad at.

Abbott is great but he needs to get on board.

We also need to outlaw free K-12 school and free college for illegal aliens. I do not understand why we are letting someone who is here illegally attend our schools. We do not know who the are, their criminal history, they age or the prior education. Further their country woudl not let you do that.

6 months ago

Dade Phelan, supposed Republican House Speaker is against doing anything to offend the Democrats. He and his cronies are just Austin swamp creatures (and even make Democrats Committee chairs). This is keeping Texas from being a true conversative-leading state.

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