I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last few months reading and listening to “what parents want” when it comes to their children’s school.
If we are to believe the pro-voucher groups, parents want to fund private schools rather than do the serious work of creating great public schools in our communities.
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 policy-makers 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 any specialized instruction students need?
Oh, and did we mention that many Texans don’t live 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 under-performing schools and quickly intervening to chart an immediate path to student growth and success?
Why do we allow schools that short-change our students to linger on for so long before granting parents access to nearby high-performing public schools?
The Texas Constitution clearly requires the Legislature to provide an efficient system of free public schools.
Is it too onerous for taxpayers to assume that this system should also be one of the highest quality?
Is it beyond reason that our investment to equip the next generation of leaders, innovators, business owners and policymakers will benefit us all in the future?
Parents are savvy. Parents are taxpayers. Parents are voters. And they are not easily fooled.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the push of a few to outsource the state’s responsibility to provide quality public education — while labeling it “choice” — is easily exposed as an artful shell game to benefit a few, while leaving millions behind.
Many of our thriving public schools offer true choices for Texas parents and students, 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 student, regardless of ZIP code.
Let’s keep our eye on the ball — great schools for all students.
Lisa Holbrook of Houston is president of the Texas PTA.