Most Texans support some form of school choice

Jan. 8, 2017 at 8:45 p.m.
Updated Jan. 9, 2017 at 12:15 a.m.

Michael Cloud

Michael Cloud   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

Michael Cloud - Guest Column

State-private partnerships are nothing new in Texas. There are a variety of ways in which the state already partners with private entities to accomplish public goals. Many private entities receive state funds for a variety of public services including promoting the arts, providing health and human services, research and planning - and, yes, even building roads.

This is from the TxDOT website: "TxDOT routinely uses the business community to plan and execute construction and maintenance projects."

Some would seem to suggest that roads should only be built by a government run monopoly - that allowing private contractors to participate in providing this service would be a great misallotment of public funds. Yet, in practice we have come to learn that there is a great public value in government working with private entities to provide services . to the point that, the State of Texas Department of Transportation considers it "routine."

When it comes to education, however, there is consternation among the opponents of education opportunity at the thought of involving non-government entities. One has to wonder, why? Their position seems to be, "We are so confident in the quality of education in our public school system that - should parents be given the option - kids would leave the system en masse."

Virtually every educator - private or public - will agree with the notion that "no one school is best for every student."

The key to student achievement is finding the best educational environment that maximizes the potential of each individual student. Some students are well-served within the existing public system. Some are not. The question then becomes, "Who is best capable, in most circumstances, for making that evaluation - the parent or a state agent?" This is the basic principle that Texans understand about school choice.

There is a difference between asking "How do we build a great school system?" and "How do we develop great students?" But the distinction is an important subtlety that makes all the difference. A great system should be the by-product of a focus on nurturing the potential of students - not vice-versa.

To entertain the argument that we should retain individual students within a system that doesn't best serve that student, for the benefit of the system, is backward thinking. It is also unsupported by the data. Studies show that school choice has a positive impact on public schools, on teacher pay, on parent satisfaction - and, most importantly, on student performance.

There is a lot we can do to improve the quality of education for our kids in Texas. We should work to empower teachers, foster innovation and involve parents within the government-run education system. We should also work to ensure that empowering parents with educational options is part of the discussion.

So where do we go from here? The majority of U.S. states have enacted some form of school choice. Seventy percent of Texans agree with some form of school choice. (That number rises among minorities.) The majority of Texas legislators agree as well. Yet, Texas does not have school choice. Texas legislators need to hear from you in order to act. School Choice Week is January 22-28. This is a good time to contact a legislator, write a letter to the editor or attend the rally at the Texas Capitol at 10 a.m. Jan. 24. Your voice can make a difference.

Michael Cloud is chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party. He also represents Senate District 18 on the State Republican Executive Committee. He may be contacted through his website, michaeljcloud.com.


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