In State of the State address, Gov. Abbott told a story about a parent he met recently, Keisha Riley. He stated that she pleaded with him for the opportunity to send her young daughter to a better school. She told him: “Having a school in my area that doesn’t fit my needs is frustrating. It makes me feel helpless because I want her to be in a good school and I want her to get a good education so she doesn’t have to struggle like I have.”
Individuals who are entrenched against improvements that can be made in public education often overlook the benefits that increased school choice will provide.
School choice is good for teachers. According to testimony in the recent school finance trial, teacher salaries would increase in a system of competition. Right now 93% of school teachers are employed by state schools. In a system of competition, schools would have to allocate resources to the place where they can get the most bang for their buck—to the place that matters most to student achievement—to the classroom.
Parents want school choice. There are over 105,000 students on waiting lists to enroll in charter schools in Texas. Where school choice has been implemented, parents have responded in overwhelming support. In Florida, for example, parent satisfaction for students in school choice programs is 93%, as opposed to 33% for the public schools they previously attended. Here in Texas, 87% of people say that school choice for all children would reduce poverty. 80% of Hispanics and 71% of African Americans in Texas support school choice.
Last, students do better with school choice. In New York, African American enrollment in selective colleges doubled among students who attended the school of their choice. (see page 19 of the School Choice Yearbook) In DC, grant recipients graduated at a rate of 91%, 20 percentage points higher than applicants who were not accepted due to lack of space. In North Carolina, criminal activity among high risk students declined by 50% when students attend schools of choice. And finally, in Wisconsin, grant recipients have a 77% on-time graduation rate—7.2 percentage points higher than the graduation rate of students in local public schools.
There are 41 private school choice programs across the nation, and they have won support from Republicans and Democrats alike. Texas parents should find support—not prohibitions—when they try to enroll a student in a school that fits their child’s needs.