Competition is the cornerstone of our society. Because of forward-thinking disruptors like Amazon, all retailers have had to step up their game. As manufacturers compete to make the best product, our “phones” have transformed from corded wall devices to pocket-size mini-computers within a generation. Competition makes products better and we – the consumers – benefit. So why do we remove competition from education, one of the most important aspects of society?
Public school districts are hemorrhaging students as parents choose alternatives like charter schools and private institutions. Case in point: “Like many of its urban peers, San Antonio ISD has been losing thousands of students each year to private and charter schools, as well as to neighboring school districts — part of a national trend as parents gain more options for where to enroll their children.”
Education matters—the future of our children matters. Instead of shaming parents for looking at other options, districts can find ways to improve student outcomes. After feeling the effects of decreased enrollment and loss of funding, San Antonio ISD decided it was time to make a change– it was time to compete.
According to Texas Tribune, “[Instead] of shuttering schools with dropping enrollment — a move that often triggers community backlash — they’re redesigning them by offering popular education programs such as dual language or Montessori that are meant to serve as bait for families who otherwise might be paying for those offerings at private schools.”
At a May 2018 school board meeting San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said, “families are sending a message — they are looking for options, and when those options exist, they are going to those options,” echoing a sentiment that we at TPPF have been saying for years.
SAISD is a perfect example of how making their public schools more appealing and versatile can save a district. When Martinez came to the district in 2015, enrollment was ”falling, inner-city schools had been shuttered or were on the verge of closure. The state had given the district a low rating. And only half of the students graduating from San Antonio ISD schools were attending college.” Circumstances were dire, but he introduced new and innovative ways to educate our kids and now things are turning around. SAISD now has a waitlist of parents trying to enroll their kids in their schools of choice.
The Texas Tribune quotes Martinez as saying, “right now, we have to create schools that people want to come to that are great options for everybody. Period.”
SAISD is responding to competition and becoming one of the forward-thinkers of their market. Let’s hope other ISDs will work to compete with private schools, charter schools and out-of-the-box options to provide a better education for our children-our future.