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This has been the year of the school’s choice nationwide. At least six more states have joined Arizona and Florida in giving parents the funds to send their children to private and charter schools.
Surprisingly, dark red Texas isn’t one of those states — at least not yet. Currently, there are no school choices in the Lone Star State for low-income parents. Gov. Greg Abbott and a broad coalition of parent groups are pushing for the State House to approve a landmark college savings account bill that has already passed the state Senate.
But a small handful of rural Republican politicians in the House are still voting with Democrats and teachers’ unions to block a measure that would give more than 5 million Texas students and their parents the power to decide which school to attend. Rural representatives argue that this would take money from their local primary and secondary schools.
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State Representatives Ken King, former school board president of Canadian, Texas, Gary VanDeaver, former school superintendent of New Boston, Texas, and Drew Darby of San Angelo, Texas, are among the Republicans who support the bill. game-changing law. They all say that the public schools in their districts are doing very well.
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Really? King represents a school district in the Texas Panhandle where less than half of students are at or above grade level in reading, and only 40 percent of students in his district are at or above grade level in math. VanDeaver represents a district in northeast Texas where only 52% of students in his district are at or above grade level in reading, and only 43% are at or above grade level in math. The Central Texas district of Darby has less than half of children reading or doing math at grade level or higher.
Another Republican lawmaker, State Rep. Ernest Bailes of the small southeast Texas town of Shepherd, is voting against the choice even though only 27% of students score at or above math in his district.
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Are these Republicans really arguing that this miserable performance is the best Texas can do for its children? Opponents also fail to acknowledge that the bill they oppose actually directs more money per student to rural district schools and higher pay for teachers. Meanwhile, states such as Arizona are reporting improvements in test scores in rural areas once schools had to compete for students with private schools.
All that to say, the choice of education is proving to be a win-win for Texas children who remain in public schools and families who receive the funds to opt for better alternatives.
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