School Choice Fight Today

( – School choice advocates have celebrated a successful year for their cause, with a high note in sight as Texas commences a special session focused on implementing a universal Education Savings Account (ESA) policy.

ESAs have become the guiding star for school choice proponents. These accounts allocate funds to families, enabling them to explore alternatives to public schooling, such as private institutions or homeschooling.

Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a proclamation for the session, urging state lawmakers to provide ESAs to every child in Texas. Anita Scott, policy director for the Texas Homeschool Coalition, expressed optimism about the special session, stating, “Governor Abbott has been on a parental empowerment campaign since January, February — visiting schools all across Texas to advocate for parents to have the right to decide where their children attend.”

Some rural Republicans raised concerns that school choice might divert funds away from their schools. Scott empathized with them, saying, “The same way in Texas when charter schools became a new reality outside of public schools —there was a concern that charter schools would sort of decrease the student population and public schools. And it’s actually created a healthy competition that raises the standards and raises the rigor, so we’re inviting our rural Republican friends to remember that reality and inviting them to be ready to expand even more opportunities.”

In the current year, advocates have seen progress in various states, with Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Utah, and Florida implementing universal ESAs and others adopting different school choice policies. However, the upcoming session in Texas may lead to some form of compromise due to the substantial funding required for such a program in a large state.

Laura Colangelo, executive director of the Texas Private School Association, noted, “The appropriation is 500 million. So, it looks like it will probably be a limited program, and we prefer that it be an ESA prioritizing low-income kids and children with disabilities. So that’s what realistically it looks like it will be, and we’re very happy with that outcome.”

School-choice proponents maintain that, regardless of the outcome in Texas, their movement has achieved significant victories this year. Neal McCluskey observed, “You don’t need Texas to see clearly that this year has been a major victory for school choice, because I think it’s now nine states have universal ESAs or other school choice programs. Most of those were passed this year, so this might be more like the icing on the cake than the cake itself.”