This article, written by Carine Martinez-Gouhier, originally appeared in The Bell Towers on February 28, 2015.
In 2015, the State of Texas is the envy of the rest of the United States. Thanks to its low taxes, a relatively small regulatory system, a limited government, Texas created more than 450,000 jobs in 2014, the highest net nonfarm job growth in the nation. The Texas Model is thriving. The freer the markets, the more options people have for jobs, for products and services, and for opportunities.
Yet, there is something that the Lone Star State surprisingly falls short on: school choice. Currently, if you live in Texas and have children, you can homeschool them, send them to a traditional public school, or arrange for a charter school. If you can pay the tuition, you have the additional option of sending them to a private school. There is currently no private school choice program available to Texas children.
There are currently 41 programs operating in 24 states and Washington, DC that allow more flexibility to parents and their children. But all is not lost for Texas, as several bills have been filed during the current 84th Legislature to try and remedy the problem. What are some of these other options?
Among the bills that have been filed so far, HB 1043 and SB 642 would create a limited tax credit scholarship program for low-income students: it would allow businesses to receive a tax credit for donations they would make to a scholarship fund administered by non-profit groups in order to help poor children. These children would then have the option to go to a private schools.
Another bill, SB 276, would create a grant program for virtually all Texas students. It would allow the money to “follow” the children to the schools of their parents’ choice. The Taxpayer Savings Grant Program would allow any child who attended a Texas public school the year before or who is first entering a new school year in Texas, to receive a grant equal to the lesser of the tuition of a private school of their choice, or a maximum of 60% of the state average maintenance and operations expenditures per student. Not only would the State of Texas, and ultimately Texan taxpayers, save money for every child who would decide to enroll in a private school, parents would be able to choose school better fitted to the needs of their children.
Different studies confirm that the benefits of a taxpayer savings grant program to the State of Texas would be tremendous. In terms of state savings, taxpayers would be able to save at least $1.1 billion over five years according to the Legislative Budget Board. According to the Texas Education Agency the state would save $1.7 billion over 5 years, and according to a Heartland Institute the state could save $22 billion over 12 years.
Teachers would benefit too, as competition would create more schools. Teachers would be able to negotiate higher salaries because of employer competition to hire the best among them. As a result, the quality of our children’s education would increase.
Children of parents who can afford to move to a better school district have a choice; not so with children from poor families who might well end up being stuck in a failing school district. Additionally, no two children are alike: more options mean the possibility to choose a school according to each of your children’s needs and aspirations. Giving more options to parents would benefit everyone along the line, from children and teachers to taxpayers. Texas is showing the United States what a successful economic model can be. It is high time that Texas also become an education model by allowing more choice for parents and children. Go big, Texas, as you know how!
Carine is a French national who immigrated to the United States to pursue her own happiness. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and a Master’s degree in American Studies (specialized in corporate social responsibility) and works in public policy. She is particularly interested in issues related to economic freedom and laissez-faire capitalism.