Thursday, April 18, 2024

Royal Alexander: Texas Frames School Choice Debate as President Reagan Did

by BPT Staff
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Given the political and cultural similarities between Louisiana and Texas, I have watched with interest the Texas school choice debate. 

This past week, several Republican state representatives who had opposed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s school choice legislation have now either been defeated or are looking like they might be in their respective runoffs.  Gov. Abbot’s proposal principally involves the use of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs).  The 2023 ESA bill would have been worth approximately $10,500 per student.

Regarding Texas voters, the Wall Street Journal has stated “sixty percent of Republican primary voters said they would be less likely to vote for an incumbent who rejected school choice last year …”  In response to a ballot question in 2022, 88% of GOP primary voters indicated that they support parents’ “right to select schools, whether public or private, for their children, and the funding should follow the student.” (WSJ, Mar. 1, 2024).  

The WSJ continued, “the larger case for choice is moral when so many public schools are failure factories that can cripple students for life. The state reports that fewer than half of students across all grades and subjects met grade level requirements in 2022-23.  The Houston schools superintendent said last year that 111 of that district’s schools merit a “D” or “F” grade.  That should be a scandal.”  Often, sadly, the most important part of school choice isn’t affording parents the option to choose a quality, safe school for their children to attend, but, rather, creating an escape hatch for their children to be able to flee a failing, dangerous school.

In support of this movement that is rapidly spreading to states all over America, I have noted before that the virtues and benefits of school choice apply to Louisiana as well.

Louisianans have long recognized that the state’s education will not improve until parents can choose what’s best for their children, which includes embracing educational freedom, reversing our history of imposing onerous regulations on school choice participation and, most importantly, allowing ESAs to liberate parents and students alike to take charge of their education in new and ambitious ways. (R. Cambre, The Heritage Foundation, Jan 30, 2024).

In explaining why parents embraced school-choice policies in the wake of the pandemic-era school closures … “parents were left hungry for alternatives, especially amidst bitter disagreements over masking and Woke ideology.  This was all immensely practical.  It wasn’t about moral imperatives or market abstractions.  It was about empowering families to put their kids in schools that address their needs, reflect their values, and do their job.” (Bedrick and Burke, The Heritage Foundation, May 31, 2023).

Yes, Dr. Fauci’s Wuhan Lab-China Virus created a great deal of awareness on the part of parents that had previously been absent, and it has changed the school choice debate.

“Parents want to pass on their values and culture to their children and they expect schools to aid—or at least avoid undermining—this process. Yet increasingly, parents are wary of schools that seem to be pushing an ideological agenda that is antithetical to their own values, such as teaching children that people are “oppressors” or “oppressed” based on their immutable racial characteristics or that “gender” is a “spectrum” that is unconnected to biological sex.  Highlighting the gap between what parents want and what district schools are doing bolsters support for school choice because it is a solution to an immediate and deeply felt problem.” (Id. The Heritage Foundation).

What Texas is doing is a reflection of a larger distinctive, national trend toward school choice in public school education.  It is long overdue and will have an immeasurably valuable impact on the lives of children, many of whom are the most economically and socially vulnerable.

Texas is following in the grand tradition of President Reagan in promoting school choice, school safety—which rests on a foundation focused on the basics such as religious freedom in schools, school discipline and character development—as well as academic rigor in history, reading, writing, arithmetic, and government.

As we all recall, President Reagan demanded that ‘Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall’ separating Freedom from Communism.

But President Reagan was just as determined to ‘tear down the wall’ that separates America’s children from educational success.

Texas is one of the states that is leading the way.

Shreveport attorney, Royal Alexander, worked in D.C. in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 8 years for two different Members of Congress from Louisiana. 

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