The Houston Chronicle recently published yet another article challenging the Lt. Governor’s continued insistence on pushing his personal agenda at the expense of more than 5.3 million Texas public education students. While I applaud the Chronicle (and recent articles published by a number of other media outlets), the fact that he continues to push vouchers (by any name) is a clear indication that he cares little about the needs of students across the state.
As House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock reminds us, the discussion about education in the state should center around the fact that there are a number of choices available to students and their families. Whether charters, home schooling, private schools or public schools, parents do have a choice. Admittedly, not all parents can make a choice of an option other than the local public school but the constitution guarantees the right to a free public education for all students. And quality must be part of the equation here.
Under the Lt. Governor’s plan, as noted by recent news articles, students in underperforming districts or campuses would be able to select an option other than public education (remember, public schools are also part of school choice!) and have an opportunity to have the money follow them. Of course, we now know that one of the pitfalls of this proposed plan is the lack of accountability on how and where parents choose to apply those funds. What assurances do we have that selecting an option other than the local public school will afford the students a better educational opportunity? Candidly, none!
So when the Lt. Governor’s continued push for vouchers (by any name) doesn’t necessarily suggest that students’ interests will be better served, why shouldn’t we be concerned? It’s easy for the Lt. Governor to stand on the bully pulpit and to continue to push his agenda. What is not so easy is for students needing the support and assistance that will improve the quality of education in underperforming campuses and districts to watch while proposals (and personal agendas) continue to be advanced to take money away from public education. This is money that, invested wisely and responsibly, could improve opportunities for all students.
As I watch and read stories about public education, I am encouraged to see the “baby steps” being taken as those of us who support investing in our public schools continue to focus on the entire student population in the state. Is our educational system perfect? It certainly is not but it is critical that we continue to make education a priority. Students, teachers and administrators across the state deserve this support. This is not (or should not be) about starving or thriving. It is about fulfilling the state’s obligation to provide a quality public education for all students, not shifting dollars from a public education system in need of support from our elected leaders.