How to Revamp Texas Schools

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. This includes our education system where, according to the Comptroller's 2010-2011 FAST report, 60% of the State's general revenue is spent. However, Texas has a big problem is our low graduation rate, which a report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in 2008 found to be at only 67%. Factoring in costs associated with lost revenue from taxes and fees, increased Medicaid enrollment, and increased incarceration rates, the report estimated that the annual public cost associated with the high dropout rate is $377 million.

Increased competition in the education marketplace has worked nationwide to promote better quality schooling and reduce dropout rates, yet Texas has only taken modest steps toward education reform. In 1995, Texas started allowing open-enrollment Charter Schools, but to this day places a cap of 215 on the number of such institutions allowed statewide. And according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the supply of Charter Schools isn't keeping up with the demand, as the Texas Charter School Association has a waiting list of 56,000 students eager to give their public school's alternative a try.

In the 80th legislative session, around the same time as the publication of the Friedman Foundation's report, a number of school choice bills were proposed by Rep. Frank Corte in the House and Senators Kyle Janek and Dan Patrick in the Senate, where none of the bills made it out of committee. According to the Houston Chronicle, Sen. Patrick has recently vowed to fight for school choice again in this upcoming session, with Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst also endorsing the idea.

"Let the subsidy be made available to parents regardless where they send their children- provided only that it be to schools that satisfy specified minimum standards- and a wide variety of schools will spring up to meet the demand. Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible. In general, they can now take this step only by simultaneous changing their place of residence." - Milton Friedman

"There is no doubt what the key obstacle is to the introduction of market competition into schooling: the perceived self-interest of the educational bureaucracy." - Milton Friedman

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