Ed reform will be a top priority for Texas Legislature next year.
The American Dream is simple: let anyone take opportunity and use it as fuel in their pursuit of happiness. Despite the hard time we sometimes give it, our Dream is alive and well today in many ways. This hasn’t come easily. For hundreds of years, we have fought to establish and maintain a society in which each of us is judged by the content of our character, and nothing else. We do this because we all want to live in state where opportunity is a daily practice, not an empty promise.
Texas leads the way in preserving economic opportunity, and it has resulted in fantastic prosperity for our people. But when we talk about education, we aren’t talking about prosperity today. Our focus is the future—on what life will be like for our children and grandchildren. Will they have the same opportunities as we did? As our parents did?
Texas Representative Dwayne Bohac recently described education as the great equalizer. Without a doubt, this will always be true. Education is the key to success, to a better life. If opportunity is what fuels our pursuit of happiness, education is the map that guides us.
Unfortunately, Texas’ education system is struggling. The ongoing school finance trial revealed a comprehensive view of how we’re doing. Sadly, a District Court looked at the current state of Texas public education and wrote that it is a “dismal” failure to “hundreds of thousands” of Texas students all across the state.
There are Texas children today who have greater potential, ambition, and intelligence than even the greatest of our nation’s leaders. We are failing their genius. We cannot claim to be a state of freedom and opportunity and then defend laws which define children’s destiny based on the zip code they are born into.
But there is a solution. As Rep Bohac says:
If we want to improve student performance and drive innovation in education, we must look at parents and students as customers who are empowered to choose the best school for their family. We get to choose what cell phone we buy; we get to choose our grocery store; and we get to choose our dry cleaner. Choosing a child's education is substantially more important. It is, perhaps, the most important investment that a parents will make for their child.
School finance litigation has been ongoing for thirty years. It’s time to implement structural reform to make the system “productive of results” as the Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly asked for. While the Supreme Court cannot tell the Legislature what this change will look like—because the Court honors the separation of powers—the justices can tell the legislature the system broken and constitutionally inefficient.
The Legislature would then need to look closely at our current system, understand it, and fundamentally reform it. It’s important to note that the last truly fundamental reform in Texas public education occurred in 1949 through the Gilmer-Aikin Laws. At the time, Texas legislators famously wrote, “we can’t do a 20th century job with 19th century machinery.” Legislators today need to reiterate this fact and declare: “we can’t do a 21st job with 20th century technology.” This means that we will maintain the same spirit as our forefathers.
Texans must support great schools and praise their success because we must do what is best for kids. In the wake of the school finance ruling next year, we will need to help all schools and all kids succeed in the mission they work so hard to achieve. Texas cannot afford to miss another decade.
Kids will grow up overnight. If you blink, you miss it.
Kids can’t wait for our three- to five-year plans to succeed. Opportunity isn’t something you put on hold; either we have it or we’ve lost it. This is why parental choice is urgent. Rep. Bohac is absolutely correct when he concluded that school choice legislation must be the top priority for the next Texas Legislature.