Texas School Choice: Original Intent of the Texas Constitution
By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. January 25, 2018
Giving parents the right to choose how they educate their children must be a high priority.
In a speech Monday proclaiming National School Choice Week, President Donald Trump said, “By giving parents more control over their children’s education, we are making strides toward a future of unprecedented educational attainment and freedom of choice.”
The school choice movement was launched when economist Milton Friedman proposed school vouchers in 1955. It has expanded in scope and sophistication, joined by those weary with a government school system focused on left wing indoctrination.
School choice has met with resistance from ideological opponents and teacher unions who want to maintain the public school monopoly regardless of its highly ineffectiveness in educating citizens to be guardians of our Constitutional Republic.
In Texas there has been strong resistance from both Democrats and Republicans. The American Legislative Exchange Council wrote in a paper to the Texas Public Policy Foundation that Texas is the only state in the South that does not have a private school choice program.
Although most people think the first Texas charter schools came after the 1995 reform bill, charter schools were common in Texas long before the existence of what is known today as “public” schools. Although Texas does not today have private school options within the public free school system, Texas did have that option before and after the current Texas Constitution was adopted.
In the 1845 Texas Constitution the original intent of the term “public schools” did not mean government owned and operated schools as we think of it today. Instead it meant “open to the public.” “Free schools” meant poor students could attend regardless of ability to pay.
The 1876 Texas Constitution is based on the 1845 Constitution and created what became known as the Community School System. The schools were similar to current charter schools but with much less regulation. The Community system of schools granted state support to almost unlimited parental choice and control.
Few Texans are aware that Texas had both private school voucher and charter school systems in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Very few Texans wanted the government to control and run schools.
Just how right early Texans were in fearing government control over education can be seen in our modern government school system. Teachers and administrators are being trained by left wing teachers’ colleges and a liberal education agency staffed with unelected people holds control over a system that wastes a significant amount of taxpayers’ money.
There seems to be little concern for the child in government schools. Instead, they fight over the equality of districts and ignore the Constitutional rights of Texas children.
Education bureaucracy competes for the biggest stadiums, ties every child to broadband despite of mountains of negative research, and creates massive new debt for open classrooms that train students for a federally planned workforce with regional centers dictating where people will work and live.
The system is devoted to endless testing, data, rubrics, development of standards and objectives, measurement, data, “Smart” goals, results, data, analysis, data, improvement plans, evidence collecting, data, percentages, alignments, data, core curriculum, cross curriculum, data, accommodations, data, modifications, mounds of paperwork, data, meetings, data, more assessments, accountability, and more data. Where is the teaching? Where are the academics?
Federal courts have upheld the right of public schools to indoctrinate students in Muslim religion and practices, to force students to watch pro-homosexual videos, to force students to attend a program advocating homosexual conduct that used minors in sexually suggestive skits, to use classroom materials that parents consider pornography, and to force students to answer nosy questionnaires with suggestive questions about sex, drugs and suicide.
Why would parents want their children to remain in this type of environment?
A parental choice that is rapidly gaining support is the Education Savings Account. Five states already have ESAs. These accounts are not federal school choice. State taxpayer money is used for ESAs. Under our U.S. Constitution it is the state and local community that are responsible for the education of children.
In an ESA program parents can withdraw their child from a public district or charter school and then use state funds that have been placed into a government authorized savings account with restricted but multiple uses. The money can be used for private school tuition and fees, online learning, curriculum, private tutoring, therapy for students with special needs, and other approved services. Families can even roll over unused funds from year to year and also can roll funds into a college savings account.
Supporters of traditional public education argue that people have to pay taxes to support public education; therefore, that money belongs to public schools. It does not!! The money belongs to the child and his parents for the child’s education!
Since people are forced to pay taxes, they should have the right to expect the school receiving that money to provide an academic education for their child. If schools to do that, then parents should have the right to take the money and give it to a school that will provide a sound academic education.
Not to allow this means the child is being held hostage by public schools that cannot – or will not – provide a doctrine free, pro-America, academic education.
Opponents of school choice insist that any schools which receive taxpayer funds must be regulated.
For decades we have had a highly regulated education monopoly. How successful has that been in providing a quality education with efficiency and accountability? Isn’t that why parents are demanding school choice?