Texas stu­dents will thrive with pub­lic school choice, ex­cel­lence

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS -

I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few months read­ing and lis­ten­ing about “what par­ents want” when it comes to their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.

If we are to be­lieve the bought-and-paid-for-mes­sag­ing of the pro-voucher me­dia ma­chine, we’re told that par­ents “want” to fund pri­vate schools rather than do the se­ri­ous work of cre­at­ing great pub­lic schools in our com­mu­ni­ties.

Pro­fes­sional strate­gists tell us that shift­ing tax­payer funds away from pub­lic schools to pri­vate schools is the most log­i­cal in­cen­tive to in­crease rigor and suc­cess in pub­lic schools. Think about that for a minute.

Thank­fully, most par­ents and pol­i­cy­mak­ers know bet­ter.

The pri­vate school choice move­ment is noth­ing more than a gift card for a se­lect few — a false prom­ise with no guar­an­tee of re­sults or suc­cess. Did we men­tion that the gift card may not cover all the costs of this new pri­vate school — books, meals, trans­porta­tion, uni­forms, spe­cial field trips or spe­cial­ized in­struc­tion you may need? Did we men­tion that many Tex­ans don’t live any­where near a pri­vate school?

A great deal? The civil rights is­sue of the decade? A true choice?

Do you want to know what par­ents re­ally want? Rich par­ents, poor par­ents, sin­gle par­ents work­ing three jobs and those liv­ing in gated com­mu­ni­ties? They want great schools — pe­riod. They want their chil­dren to at­tend schools that work and pro­vide a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion that pre­pares them for the fu­ture.

And if their neigh­bor­hood school isn’t pro­vid­ing the qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion they de­serve, they want their lo­cal school boards and their state-level lead­ers to ad­dress the prob­lem ag­gres­sively and con­sis­tently so ei­ther their school im­proves or they have fully-funded options that cre­ate true pub­lic school choice.

Why aren’t we laser-fo­cused on that? Why aren’t we fo­cused on de­mand­ing great pub­lic schools?

Why aren’t we in­vest­ing our en­ergy, brain­power and dol­lars in ac­cu­rately iden­ti­fy­ing un­der­per­form­ing schools and quickly in­ter­ven­ing to chart an im­me­di­ate path to stu­dent growth and suc­cess? Why do we al­low schools that shortchange our stu­dents to linger on for so long be­fore grant­ing par­ents ac­cess to nearby high-per­form­ing pub­lic schools?

Our pub­lic schools of­fer many choices for Texas fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing state-of-the-art aca­demic pro­grams, mag­net schools, acad­e­mies and pub­lic char­ter schools.

We should work to fund our pub­lic schools so these op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able to ev­ery par­ent and stu­dent re­gard­less of ZIP code. When pub­lic school choice and ex­cel­lence are pur­sued to­gether, our stu­dents will thrive.

Pro­vid­ing a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for ev­ery sin­gle child is the most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity of our state and lo­cal lead­ers. Let’s keep our eye on the prize: great schools for all stu­dents.

RALPH BAR­RERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Pub­lic schools of­fer many choices, in­clud­ing state-of-the-art aca­demic pro­grams, mag­net schools, acad­e­mies and pub­lic char­ter schools, writes Lisa Hol­brook.

Hol­brook

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