Twenty-seven states have some form of a private school choice program. Five states have an education savings account (ESA) program that provides the best, most innovative, and most customizable form of education choice. With the passage of Senate Bill 3 — a bill that I co-authored and helped pass out of the Senate — Texas will join their ranks.
By all measures, Highland Park ISD is outstanding. HPISD is one of only 44 five-star districts on the Texas Smart Schools ranking, which weighs both academic results and financial efficiency. In the trial run of the new A-F district grading system, HPISD received an “A” grade on two of the four domains measured: student achievement and student progress. Residents of the Park Cities are blessed to have such great public schools. When students and parents are satisfied with the education they are receiving, they will not sign up for the education choice program.
Still, HPISD might not be right for every child. Perhaps a child is bullied. Maybe the district is unable to perfectly or completely accommodate the learning needs of a student with disabilities. For whatever reason a school doesn’t work for that child — whether it’s a failing school or an outstanding HPISD school — that child must have a place to turn.
That’s why I’m passionate about education choice, and particularly ESAs. SB 3 empowers parents and students with opportunities. I want the best public schools possible. I want every child to love to learn and wake up excited to go to school. SB 3 will help immensely to meet those goals. The evidence from other states is clear: when these programs are designed to promote competition, education choice makes public schools stronger and improves outcomes for all students — even those who remain in the traditional public school. Competition makes America great because it always lowers prices and increases quality.
Remember: SB 3 makes financial accommodations for school districts if a student chooses to participate in the program. HPISD and other districts across the state will retain a portion of the money they would have received for that child and still get to count that child in enrollment for Robin Hood purposes. That is not the case if a child leaves a school district for any other reason. If a child’s family moves out of state or across town, there is no such financial consideration made for the district. If a parent withdraws the child for another reason, like homeschooling, the district receives no financial easing.
Public schools will always be the backbone of education in Texas, and we know the competition that SB 3 brings will strengthen public schools. This will lead to a better education and brighter future for all students — regardless of whether they participate in the choice program or remain in their traditional public school.
Change is hard, and public education leaders are clearly nervous about what the future holds. Based on the experience of other states, and based on dozens of empirical studies I have reviewed, I can confidently say that the future of public education will be much brighter if we pass an education choice program. Most importantly, education choice means new opportunities and a brighter future for Texas students. Let’s focus on students, and let’s empower Texas families with education choice.
Sen. Don Huffines represents the North half of Dallas County in the Texas Senate. First elected in 2014 and now serving in his second legislative session, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Border Security Committee, and as a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources & Economic Development, Education, Intergovernmental Relations, and Administration.
REP. MORGAN MEYER
512-463-0367 – Austin
469-554-0428 – Dallas
SEN. DON HUFFINES
512-463-0116 – Austin
214-239-6131 – Dallas