You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Capitol rally sets the stage for school choice debate


Highlights

Hundreds of students, parents and teachers from mostly private and charter schools attended the Capitol rally.

Gov. Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gave their support to school choice legislation.

The Texas House has traditionally given a cool reception to school choice bills.

Gov. Greg Abbott pledged Tuesday to sign any school choice legislation that reaches his desk, adding his voice to what promises to be one of the most heated debates this legislative session.

“We know when it comes to education, one size doesn’t fit all,” Abbott told a crowd of several hundred parents, students and teachers at an annual school choice rally at the Capitol. “So why is it that government has the power to force a student to attend a school that is wrong for them?”

Those pushing for school choice legislation want state funding to help pay for education options other than traditional public schools, such as online, private or home schooling.

Opponents see it as stripping funding from traditional public schools, where the overwhelming majority of Texas children are being educated.

“It’s important to identify what we’re talking about. These are … vouchers in another name because they take money that is intended for all students and hand it over via an entitlement to private businesses not accountable to taxpayers,” said Mark Wiggins, lobbyist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which advocates for public schools.

READ: Are education savings accounts the new private school vouchers?

School choice bills likely will be filed this week to coincide with National School Choice Week, advocates said.

For at least the past decade, the Texas House has given tepid regard to any legislation that would give public money to private schools. Some lawmakers have said that passing such legislation would violate the Texas Constitution which mandates a system of “public free schools.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has long supported school choice, told the crowd Tuesday that school choice bills this session would create education savings accounts and tax credit scholarships. The latter system was proposed last session but wasn’t advanced in the House. It would give tax credits to businesses if they donate money to scholarship programs that would send students to private schools.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Lone Star Politics page brings Capitol news to your Facebook feed

Education savings accounts — operating in five states — would give students leaving public school a debit card with about $5,600 per year, to be used on a variety of education services, including for tuition for private schools.

“This is not a war on public education. This is not a war on our school teachers or our principals or our superintendents who are doing a good job,” Patrick said. “I hear this argument from our public schools — ‘you’ll take money away from us.’ … That’s not true. It doesn’t take money from the education system because they don’t have to teach the child.”

During his remarks, Patrick also plugged the new A-F accountability system which has rankled many traditional public school proponents. The system will launch in 2018, but in preliminary grades released this month based on 2015-16 data, many traditional public schools received D’s and F’s. Public school administrators have said that the grades aren’t accurate reflections of their academic performance and see the grades as a way to advance the school choice agenda.

READ: Texas schools and districts get their letter grades from state

“We know that that system is being used to try and tell parents that their schools that are good schools are somehow actually failing schools, and, therefore, we need some kind of voucher program,” Wiggins said. “We are seeing those A-F grades definitely being used to bolster an argument that we don’t agree with.”

The Austin school district held a rally of its own Tuesday to highlight educational opportunities within the district’s schools, such as international baccalaureate curricula, theater and robotics.

“When we talk about school choice, there are a lot of entities out there who think their choice is the best,” Ken Zarifis, president of Austin’s teacher’s union Education Austin, said at the rally at Anderson High School in Northwest Austin. “That choice really is just a different philosophy of education and a different building.”

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

Donning yellow scarves, most of the students, teachers and parents who attend the school choice rally each year at the Capitol are from charter and private schools.

Education savings accounts wouldn’t help charter schools, but charter school advocates have repeated calls for more funding.

Paulina Pereira, a 10th-grade student at an Austin campus of IDEA Public Schools, a charter school network, said more funding would mean that her school could have uniforms for the cheerleading team and offer band and choir classes.

“Think about us. Wouldn’t you want your child to have a better education?” she said.

Additional material from American-Statesman staff writer Forrest Milburn.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

FORECAST: Strong to severe storms expected Saturday night
FORECAST: Strong to severe storms expected Saturday night

The sky is about to get grouchy, weekend warriors. Saturday brings a 30 percent chance of showers that will continue throughout the day and be joined by a chance of thunderstorms after 1 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. It will be mostly cloudy with a high near 88. That chance of precipitation will ramp up to 60 percent by that night...
8-month-old gets liver transplant from godmother
8-month-old gets liver transplant from godmother

He’s known as “Finn the Mighty Warrior” on a Facebook page devoted to him, and this 8-month old fighter continues to battle against two rare liver conditions. >> Read more trending news But Finn O’Sullivan won’t have to fight alone. The infant, in need of a transplant, found a match — not from a relative...
Woman pulls gun, says barber took too long to give son haircut
Woman pulls gun, says barber took too long to give son haircut

An Ohio woman who believed a barber was taking too long to cut her son’s hair pulled a gun, telling the hairstylist that “I’ve got two clips,” WJW reported. >> Read more trending news According to Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County, the incident occurred April 14 at Allstate Barber College in Cleveland. While...
Dumpster-diving woman turns trash into cash
Dumpster-diving woman turns trash into cash

When school loans loom, post-college graduates have to make up ways to earn money to pay them off. >> Read more trending news So a Texas woman goes Dumpster diving to find makeup, and then sells it to help pay those loans, WGN reported. Shelbi, who did not provide her last name, works full time in environmental regulations. At night, she...
Texas parents concerned about bathroom cameras in park
Texas parents concerned about bathroom cameras in park

Concerned parents are questioning why cameras were installed in a public restroom at a Texas park. >> Read more trending news Patrick McGrath thought teenagers were joking about security video cameras mounted inside the bathrooms at the Springtown Park, until he saw them for himself, KDFW reported. "To see who's going in is what they're...
More Stories