Commentary: Parents want real choice — public school choice


I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few months reading and listening about “what parents want” when it comes to their children’s education.

If we are to believe the bought-and-paid-for-messaging of the pro-voucher media machine, we’re told that parents “want” to fund private schools rather than do the serious work of creating great public schools in our communities.

Professional strategists tell us that shifting taxpayer funds away from public schools to private schools is the most logical incentive to increase rigor and success in public schools. Think about that for a minute.

Thankfully, most parents and policymakers know better.

The private school choice movement is nothing more than a gift card for a select few — a false promise with no guarantee of results or success. Did we mention that the gift card may not cover all the costs of this new private school – books, meals, transportation, uniforms, special field trips or specialized instruction you may need? Did we mention that many Texans don’t live anywhere near a private school?

A great deal? The civil rights issue of the decade? A true choice?

Do you want to know what parents really want? Rich parents, poor parents, single parents working three jobs and those living in gated communities? They want great schools — period. They want their children to attend schools that work and provide a quality education that prepares them for the future.

And if their neighborhood school isn’t providing the quality education they deserve, they want their local school boards and their state-level leaders to address the problem aggressively and consistently so either their school improves or they have fully-funded options that create true public school choice.

Why aren’t we laser-focused on that? Why aren’t we focused on demanding great public schools?

Why aren’t we investing our energy, brainpower and dollars in accurately identifying underperforming schools and quickly intervening to chart an immediate path to student growth and success? Why do we allow schools that shortchange our students to linger on for so long before granting parents access to nearby high-performing public schools?

Our public schools offer many choices for Texas families, including state-of-the-art academic programs, magnet schools, academies and public charter schools.

We should work to fund our public schools so these opportunities are available to every parent and student regardless of ZIP code. When public school choice and excellence are pursued together, our students will thrive.

Providing a quality education for every single child is the most important responsibility of our state and local leaders. Let’s keep our eye on the prize: great schools for all students.

Holbrook is president of Texas PTA.



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