School choice: Not a simple one

Thousands rally at State Capitol for school choice

AUSTIN - Thousands are expected to attend a rally at the Texas State Capitol in support of school choice Tuesday.

It comes just a day after groups gathered at the Capitol to talk about the dangers of moving to a private school choice system.

Experts predict the topic will be hotly debated in the 2017 legislature.

Advocates are hoping lawmakers will adopt an "education savings account" system in Texas. Each student would get a set amount for the year. That money goes into a protected account which can be used for a number of specialized education options like charter, private or even home schooling.

"With over 130,000 students on a charter school wait list, not enough families have options,” explained Randan Steinhauser, the Texas advisor for National School Choice Week. “And really even the best school doesn't work for every child. So we want to make sure that every child has access to every type of option."

But others believe the answer to higher quality education is more public school funding.

"A rising tide lifts all boats,” said Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators. “If we're really concerned about helping all kids, then we ought to be focused on the schools that help all kids. And those are public schools."

Public schools lost $5.4 billion in 2011. Funding that’s since been regained hasn't kept up with yearly enrollment growth.

"School choice really shouldn't be just about the funding,” said Steinhauser. “It should be about what works best for the child."

Others say unfortunately, funding has to come into play.

"If you remove money from a city school district, that money is not just attached to that child in that city school district,” Wiggins said. “Because of the way the school finance system works, you're also taking resources from kids out in West Texas and kids out in East Texas."

But advocates are proposing to use only the state dollars allotted for maintenance and operation. Steinhauser said local property tax dollars stay with schools.

And then there’s the question of accountability.

"It creates a corporate welfare entitlement that takes money out of the public school system and gives it to private businesses that aren't accountable to taxpayers and that get to choose whichever students they want to take," added Wiggins.

“Any school participating in an Education Savings Account Program would be an approved, accredited private school in Texas,” rebuts Steinhauser. “There's roughly about 830 of them across the state and we know that they are willing and able to participate in an Education Savings Account Program.”

That doesn't include home schooling, the largest growing alternative school choice in Texas, according to EdChoice.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia all have some form of school choice.

To learn more about the issue, go here.

You can also learn more about the efforts of the Association of Professional Educators here.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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