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Opinion: A Simple Fix for Texas Schools

Opinion

Children walking to school | Image by MMD Made my dreams

Texas currently faces two unique and seemingly unrelated crises in public education.

First, countless local school districts across our state are grappling with the realities of explosive enrollment growth as rural communities become more suburban and suburban communities become more urban. Second, tens of thousands of our school-age children are trapped in persistently failing schools with no viable alternative.

But, there is good news as well. Innovation in how we deliver public education can effectively help solve both of these problems without the need to put additional resources (your tax dollars) into the system.

The path to solving these dual crises is actually quite simple. Let me explain.

Under existing state law, and with the assistance of the state’s education agency, a local district may enter into a contract with an independent, nonprofit entity that maintains a network of high-standard educational partners across the state.

The district then changes its enrollment policy to allow any child from across Texas to become one of its students.

For these new out-of-district students, the nonprofit partner then identifies an educational institution within its network that fits their academic needs and facilitates their attendance.

Since these kids are formally enrolled through the public school district, the state will send that district additional money for the provision of those students’ education.

Of this additional state money, a portion is then used to pay any necessary tuition to educate these students at one of the educational partners, with all remaining funds staying with the public school district.

The results: additional money for the public school district administering the program and access to a high-quality education for limitless children currently stranded in failing schools.

As a former state representative and passionate advocate for families, children, and our public schools, I cannot think of a more consequential plan to transform how we deliver education as a state. And remember, this is all accomplished without raising taxes or increasing our state budget.

Through this forward-thinking program, a Texas public school district can add additional dollars (potentially large sums of money) to its operating budget to better address teacher hiring and retention, necessary capital improvements and expansion, and countless other programs to enhance the education of local children inside the district, and to cope with massive enrollment growth.

All without adding any additional seats to physical classrooms in the district.

Furthermore, a zip code shouldn’t dictate the beginning and end of a child’s educational opportunity in our amazing state. Sadly, it currently does.

Loving parents in these failing areas of the state know that their child’s school isn’t serving them well. But, so often, they do not have the means or ability to change these circumstances. This program gives those families an opportunity that is currently being denied to them. This program shatters the educational determinism of a child’s zip code and creates opportunities where there currently is none.

For me, there is only a  moral and financial upside for everyone involved.

While I know that sometimes it is easier to avoid bold change than embrace it, I hope that we are all reminded of the Scriptural call to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We all want what is best for our children and our families. What if we can better provide that plus impact the children of others?

So, whether or not you are a public education advocate, or whether you have children in public schools, the value proposition is clear: through this innovative plan, we can bring more money into local public schools and provide countless other children with more educational opportunities that will undeniably change their lives.

What’s not to love?

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R Reason
R Reason
4 days ago

This sounds like a sham that leaves public schools and taxpayers “grappling” with the charter school movement, where there is “explosive enrollment growth”.  On their way out, parents can blame the public school system, while simultaneously; taking the money that would improve it.  Not loving it.

Thomas
Thomas
3 days ago

There will be those, like R Reason above, who complain that this idea will take away the money public schools need to improve. Yet how long should we continue to support schools which have failed to improve year after year? R Reason, is there EVER a point to quit throwing good money after bad?

It is partially the fault of “No Child Left Behind.” I don’t think anyone disagrees that no child should be left behind, but how long will we allow those few who have no intention of keeping up to put the breaks on learning on those who want to learn and succeed? Public schools need a remedial system where those who do not wish to perform can still have a chance at an education without holding anyone else back. I know – I am a volunteer at Aspire, a non-profit that helps young adults get their G.E.D. It’s a shame that people have to reach their mid-twenties with children of their own before they realize the opportunity they missed in public schools.

E R
E R
Reply to  Thomas
3 days ago

Hello Thomas,

I agree with your comments. I am a 72 year old female who came to Dallas and completed my last 4 years of school at DISD.

I came from an uneducated background of immediate family members who didn’t graduate high school and only knew to go to work after school. As a result, I feel like I was not properly educated to know of the advantages of college (not my parents fault). I don’t blame anyone for not knowing, but I did have to figure it out for myself.

I am from a very rural area in north Louisiana. I feel that I received a better education from the rural environment as opposed to the education I received in the Dallas Independent School District. After many trials and tribulations, I graduated from Texas Woman’s University on December 12, 2020, one day after turning 70 years old. I am employed full-time and I am contemplating furthering my education by pursuing a Master’s degree.

R Reason
R Reason
Reply to  Thomas
3 days ago

My only complaint is that this op-ed is “lipstick on a pig”, and first you have to find the pig.

“School Vouchers divest funding from public schools by making taxpayer money additionally subsidize private school tuition. In public schools, this leads to increased class sizes and fewer resources, such as decreased school counselors and nurses, textbooks, equipment and cutting music and athletic programs.”

“Voucher programs are rooted in racism; promote segregation; will expose families to discrimination, corruption and fraud. They will leave public schools underfunded and our children under-educated.”  

Arizona is already sounding the alarm on the high cost of their new program. 

heavyjumbo
heavyjumbo
3 days ago

It’s good to efficiently use money. However, money isn’t the problem. The number one indicator, by far, on whether your child will be successful in that school, is parental participation.