Over 100,000 students in Texas are on the charter school wait list—and with the number of charter schools capped at 215, they have a long wait ahead of them.
But state senator Dan Patrick—a self-described “education evangelist”—is attempting to implement a radical educational reform. Patrick is sponsoring two consequential school choice proposals. One would remove the limit on the number of licenses Texas issues to operate charter schools and created a special board to oversee the new charter applications he expects will follow. The other is a voucher plan that would allow businesses to earn tax credits for donations that help poor and at-risk children leave public schools for private or religious ones.
The legislation could help close the achievement gaps between white and minority students and between low-income students and their more affluent peers. As the Heritage Foundation notes,
In Texas, where more than half of all public school students are Hispanic, choice is a critical step in narrowing concerning achievement gaps. For example, while 42 percent of white eighth graders are proficient in reading, just 17 percent of their Hispanic peers can read on grade level. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Hispanic eighth graders are two years behind their white peers in reading.
While charter schools aren’t a cure-all for the state’s educational ills, they are an important step forward, both for Texas students and as an example Texas for the rest of the country. If charter schools succeed on a grand scale in the Lone Star State, it may make it more difficult for other states to continue to oppose educational freedom.