Education Choice & Workforce Task Force
The Texas Legislature is at a crossroads vis-à-vis education in Texas. Nowhere is change more desperately needed than K-12 education. What was not already apparent became undeniable when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted unprecedented government action in public education. School shutdowns, mask mandates and related debates, undeniably harmful learning losses, more parental involvement and awareness of the state’s curriculum, as well as materials, teaching methods, and day-do-day activities within the schools all point in the same direction: change is needed.
Texas is one of the last conservative strongholds without a major statewide education choice plan in which the money follows the child. The state’s greatest choice success—public charter schools—remains the target of the traditional public school establishment’s ire. Public charter schools and the economically disadvantaged majority minority student population will no doubt spend yet another legislative session defending themselves from legislation meant to do nothing less than harm them financially and operationally. Parents who believe teachers and public schools are public employees charged with the specific task of teaching their children the state’s curriculum are faced with a system that largely believes its administrators and teachers know better than the parent what is best for that child. There is mounting evidence that public schools regularly engage in conduct that has very little to do with education and more to do with indoctrination.
The very same public education system that is rightfully deserving of the current scrutiny is doing everything it can to avoid accountability. The talk of “high stakes testing,” STAAR examinations, and the state’s A-F accountability system is designed to persuade legislators to eliminate testing and accountability from the very schools that are failing this system and not being held accountable.
Texas can embrace its public school system while changing it at the same time. Texas needs a major education choice program with private schools as an option. The money should follow the child to the school that best serves the student’s needs. The legislature should fight back against the assault on charter schools by making it easier to approve new charters and expand existing ones. The legislature should empower parents by passing transparency measures that help keep parents informed of what is taking place within school walls and to help them take action when they believe that what is taking place is not appropriate. The legislature should also recognize that leaving the state’s testing and accountability system in place is imperative. There must be an objective measure of school and district performance based primarily on the academic performance of students. This is the least of what the state owes parents who have no options beyond the geographical school to which their children are assigned.
Beyond K-12 education, secondary institutions are ripe for reform as well. Teacher tenure protects college professors far more than it should. The state’s primary financial aid program is structured in such a way that far more students qualify for the aid than are able to take advantage of it. The state’s funding structure for community colleges is poorly designed with very few incentives for better performance.
These issues are all critical to the future of Texas’s population and workforce. The 2021-22 TCCRI Education Choice and Workforce Task Force looked at all of these issues and makes a number of policy recommendations in its 2021-21 Final Report, which you can read here.