The following commentary is published on Thursdays as part of TPPF’s subscriber-only newsletter The Post. If you would like to subscribe to The Post, click here.
Tomorrow, the Texas House of Representatives will debate a universal school choice bill on the floor for the first time in its history. It’s an important moment that longtime supporters of school choice should reflect on a feel proud about – especially because so many said it would never happen.
There is still a long way to go, and the bill’s success is far from certain. But it’s worth noting that we’re here because of parents across Texas who are demanding the right to determine the best education for their child. For the past two years, they have organized, shown up, and stood up to a bureaucracy that is clearly more concerned about retaining control over the system than improving education outcomes. When we finally get education savings accounts across the finish line, Texas parents deserve a ton of credit.
But the school choice opponents aren’t done. There will likely be an amendment to strip ESAs out of HB 1, leaving only the billions in new funding for schools. This is what the education establishment always does: take the money and leave parents with nothing. It is critical that supporters of school choice contact their representatives in the House today and tomorrow and tell them to stand with parents and protect ESAs in the bill.
Despite the heated disagreement between the two sides, there is one data point on which everyone agrees: if given the opportunity, hundreds of thousands – potentially millions – of families would choose a different education option than the one being offered by their local public school. The opposition’s claim that ESAs would “defund” schools is completely based on this point. The question is, why? Why are so many parents in Texas looking for alternatives?
If the people who run the schools would take a moment to ponder this question instead of being reflexively obstinate and power hungry, perhaps we could have avoided this fight altogether.
An ESAs is not a silver bullet, and it won’t solve this problem overnight. But giving parents more control over their child’s education will bring change to a system that desperately – and obviously – needs to be more responsive to parents’ concerns.
Update: The House voted on Friday to strip out education savings accounts from HB 1, effectively stalling the bill and blocking billions in new education funding, including teacher raises, bonuses, and benefits, as well as eliminating and replacing the STAAR test.