Why School Choice is critical to Texas

Many of us take education for granted.  After all, there are plenty of public schools in Texas, right?  Unfortunately, some schools in Texas are failing or are underperforming.    And because some of us were privileged to attend an alternate or private school doesn’t mean that everyone can afford to attend a private school.   Parents should have the freedom of choice to help their children achieve the American Dream.   The American Dream after all is for all Americans, not just a few.
 
Education is going to be one of the most important issues Texans face in the next few years.  Think about this, without education where will we find our next generation of teachers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, pharmacists, computer analysts and business men/women?  How about the future of technology in Texas? Where will the hospitals and nursing homes find qualified staff to manage these facilities? 
 
According to Forbes.com as of October, 2015, Texas is an economic leader.  But Texas also has a dark side, education.
 
The $1.65 trillion Texas economy is the second biggest in the U.S., behind only California. Texas ranks first for current economic climate thanks to the second fastest job and economic growth over the past five years. In addition, there are 121 of the 1,000 largest public and private companies in the U.S. based in Texas, including giants like AT&T, ExxonMobil and Dell. One of the only things holding Texas back is the education rate among its labor supply. Only 82% of adults have a high school degree, which is second lowest among the states.
 
If Texas is to continue to grow in prosperity then we need to educate our children and just because you live in a certain zip code should not define you or your future.  San Antonio happens to be the second largest city in Texas with an estimated 1.3M population.  Listed below are failing or underperforming schools in the Bexar County area.  As you can see San Antonio Independent School District lists 20 schools.  SAISD is basically in the heart of San Antonio.   This information is from an Express-News article dated August 22, 2016; link is at the end of my article. 

 

“While all 16 traditional school districts in Bexar County received passing grades from the state in accountability results released last week, there were 30 individual schools that failed to meet acceptable standards.
 
The schools were found in just 7 school districts, with a disproportionate amount coming from San Antonio Independent School District, the only of the area's large school districts to have failing schools.”
Highland Forest Elementary: East Central ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, College Readiness
Pecan Valley Elementary: East Central ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement
Gardendale Elementary: Edgewood ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Park Village Elementary: Judson ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Highlands High School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Connell Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Wheatley Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Irving Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Lowell Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Page Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps
Poe Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Rhodes Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Rogers Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Tafolla Middle School: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Pickett Academy: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Ball Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Cotton Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Foster Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress, College Readiness
Rodriguez Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Dorie Miller Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Ogden Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Stewart Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Storm Elementary: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Woodlawn Academy: San Antonio ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Somerset Academic Achievement Center: Somerset ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement
Somerset Junior High School: Somerset ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Losoya Intermediate: Southside ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress
Gallardo Elementary: Southside ISD
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
Southwest Preparatory School
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps
Southwest Preparatory School Northwest Elementary
Where improvement is needed: Student Achievement, Closing Performance Gaps, College Readiness
 
School choice is the answer to inadequate and underperforming schools.  Parents have to have the freedom to choose what school their child will attend.  Without an education there is little hope in obtaining a job that pays an adequate wage, much less in achieving the American Dream.  So as we learn more about how failing schools will affect all of us, it is important to understand that we must do our share in promoting school choice.   
 
Senator Donna Campbell of Senate District 25 is working toward changing the present inexcusable school situation.  In an article she wrote February 15, 2015 for the Express-News entitled, ‘Tweaking the state’s educational status quo doesn’t work; perhaps putting focus on the child will.’
 
She said, “Texans have a moral obligation to ensure every child has access to a quality education. No child should be trapped in a failing or chronically underperforming school.     Unfortunately, many Texas schoolchildren are never given this opportunity, because they have no say in the school they attend. Predetermined political boundaries send some students to exemplary schools, others to dismal ones. This is a tragedy created by government, leading to achievement gaps based on race, income and ZIP code.  For decades now we have thrown money at the problem without improving results. Education spending accounts for almost 40 percent of the state budget, but student performance has remained stagnant. Property taxes continue to rise to fund our schools while the achievement gap only grows wider. This is a far cry from the efficient education that the state is constitutionally required to provide. Clearly, we need a better approach.  The quickest, most efficient way to fix our schools is to restore accountability and empower parents through school choice. With school choice, every child gains equal access to a quality education. By allowing a portion of taxpayer dollars to follow the child to the school that best meets his or her needs, we place the education emphasis back where it belongs — on the child.”    
 
In May, 2016 Senator Campbell sent out this Statement on the ‘Texas Supreme Court School Finance Ruling’ press release:

AUSTIN-- State Senator Donna Campbell released the following statement upon the Texas Supreme Court's ruling that the school finance system is constitutional.

"The Texas Supreme Court rightly addressed a legal question and wisely avoided a political one with today's school finance ruling. The decision that Texas meets the constitutional requirement is no surprise to those of us in the Legislature who regularly vote on budgets where 40% of general revenue goes to public schools and Texas students achieve among the highest graduation rates in the country. There are still gains that need to be made, and they will be best achieved by improving teacher compensation, expanding school choice, and keeping more local dollars in the community. I look forward to working on these issues next session."
 
Senator Campbell introduced a school choice bill called Taxpayer Savings Grants, SB 276 that failed to make it in the last 84th Texas legislative session.  She is already working on another bill for this coming session, ‘K-12 Tuition Equalization Grant Bill’, that will use a 2/3 taxpayer grant which should provide most of the money necessary for admission in a school of choice for the child.  Parents could then afford to pay the remainder or the school might be able to provide a scholarship for the 1/3 necessary to complete the entire cost of tuition.   This bill is presently being written to make sure it will pass the upcoming 85th Texas Legislature which convenes on Tuesday, January 10, 2017.  The first day to pre-file a bill begins Monday, November 14, 2016.
 
With so much at stake, it is time that our Texas lawmakers take a hard look into the future of Texas making sure that we continue to thrive and that our children have the tools necessary to achieve the American Dream.  I am a true believer in Texas, America and the American Dream. 
 
Fight, NEVER GIVE UP!
 
30 San Antonio-area schools fail to meet the state's education accountability goals
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