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Section A: General News


Editorial: Quality education options for all Texas students




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Guest Editorial
April 17, 2013 | 1,597 views | 28 comments

By James Golsan

Meaningful reform in Texas education has been hard to come by lately. Since dramatic, progressive changes to our education code in the mid-1990s that brought open-enrollment charter schools to the state, we have subsequently settled for tinkering around the edges of questions like “How do we deliver high quality education to all Texas students?”

From a legislative perspective, Texas tends to be conservative with a small “c”. We can be slow to change in major policy areas like education, even when there is a great need for change. For our state, that need is present. We have a 26 percent dropout rate. Seventeen percent of our Hispanic students read proficiently; 42 percent of our Anglo students do. Clearly we are not meeting the needs of all Texas students.

If you are well off in Texas, you have access to a high quality education for your child if you want it. You can afford to live in a neighborhood with a good public school. If that school does not suit your child’s needs, you can send them to one of the state’s many excellent private schools.

Poorer Texans do not have those options at their disposal. If there is not a charter school in their area (or if that charter school is at capacity), they are, for the most part, bound by geography. Their child must attend the public school they live closest to, whether that school is best suited to the needs of that child.

It is an unfair system, but one we could reform rapidly. Just because Texas has few school choice options does not mean we could not add many more for Texas students this session. There are signs of progress. Texas has a hard-cap of 215 open-enrollment charter schools, which has left more than 100,000 Texas students on wait lists to attend those schools. Multiple bills have been brought forward to raise that cap, and are showing strong signs of movement within the Legislature.

Also encouraging is a push to reform Texas’ “parent-trigger” law. Parent-trigger laws are mechanisms by which parents may band together and vote to reconstitute a failing public school into a public charter. Our current law states that a school must fail for six consecutive years before a trigger may be considered. Shortening that period to two or three years, which some of our lawmakers are currently attempting to do, would make it a much more effective tool for parents seeking to make meaningful changes at their school in time for it to affect their child.

But we must not stop with public school reform. Texas has no private school choice whatsoever. No education scholarships, either of the state-driven variety or those given through business, which are granted a tax credit to fund education scholarships, exist here for our lower- and middle-income families. There are no scholarships for our special needs students, despite the rousing successes seen with such scholarships in other states, such as Florida’s McKay Scholarship program.

At the end of the day, school choice is about leveling the playing field so every student gets a fair shot. Every student must include our most vulnerable populations, namely our lower-income families and families supporting special needs students. In the coming weeks, the Texas Legislature will consider a number of choice bills that could change the lives of thousands of Texas students and set them on a path toward a brighter future. We, as a state, need meaningful change in our education system now. Every Texas student deserves an equal chance for a great education. Now is the time to give it to them.

James Golsan is policy analyst for the Center for Education with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit, free-market research institute based in Austin. He may be reached at jgolsan@texaspolicy.com.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
Chief Noetall  
Wise, Texas  
April 30, 2013 2:36pm
 
My recent posts indicated that the 45th National Guard were comprised of persons from Texas and Oklahoma. After WWII, this unit became comprised of National Guard members only in Oklahoma. At one time it was comprised of ... More ›

 
Chief Noetall  
Wise, Texas  
April 30, 2013 2:13pm
 
Facts only Please.......The 45th was only mentioned to explain part of the drop out rate in 1950 in parts of Oklahoma and Texas. My original comment concerned the national drop out rate which you immediately discounted. ... More ›

 
New Guy  
Wilson County  
April 30, 2013 1:22pm
 
4th, HEB is having a sale on your meds...please take them. I will pay!

 
Facts only please  
TX  
April 30, 2013 1:21pm
 
Chief, let's focus on Texas or maybe Wilson county. Again, check the Texas records and I think you will be surprised at the rates. Floresville? Who cares about when the 45th Infantry Division, what does that got to do with ... More ›

 
Chief Noetall  
Wise, Texas  
April 30, 2013 12:25pm
 
Facts only Please....In the United States. In 1940 the graduation rate broke 50 percent for the first time. It improved through the 1950s reaching a peak in the late 60s. BTW the graduation was only 10% in 1900. Or so I ... More ›

 
Ken Semlinger  
Poth, TX  
April 30, 2013 11:44am
 
Bob believe me I was around at that time and was even alert enough to know what was going on. I mentioned the quality of teachers and the programs in the private school which I attended. I did not attend public school and do ... More ›

 
4 th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Springs  
April 30, 2013 11:39am
 
"Facts"...almost every FACT out there can be interpreted in different ways. so, just providing a FACT does not make it so! For instance the Congressional Budget office said that Obamacare would cost just a tad under ... More ›

 
Facts only please  
TX  
April 30, 2013 11:15am
 
Chief: Where did you get your facts for 1950s rates were higher than now? Where in Texas, Ohio, or Wilson county? General comments without citing your source is just that, general comment.

 
Chief Noetall  
Wise, Texas  
April 30, 2013 9:10am
 
The drop out rate for high school students in the 1950s was much higher than now. This had the effect of removing a lot of disruptive students thus enhancing the learning environment. Over the past 50 years or so, much of ... More ›

 
Making the choice  
St. Hedwig  
April 29, 2013 9:18pm
 
4th, I agree. That is one of the several reasons we pulled our child out of the brick and mortar public school Every time we discuss the differences of one vs the other,his perspective of how the teachers do not have a high ... More ›

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