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Parent-Choice Proposals Spread

If SB276 becomes law in Texas, parents who are dissatisfied with the education their children are receiving in public schools will be given 60 percent of what the state would otherwise spend on their child and be allowed to use it to pay for private-school tuition ("How Texas Can Take the Lead on School Choice," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 28). The rest of the money would go back to the state treasury.

Although this would be the most comprehensive school-choice plan in the nation to date, it will not be the last.  I say so with deep regret because I believe strongly in public schools.  But the evidence supports my view. Despite the 28 times between 1966 and 2014 that voters have overwhelmingly rejected vouchers or their variants in statewide referendums, the parental-choice movement will not die.  In fact, it is growing.  At least 34 states have under consideration proposals to create or amend private education options ("Push for Private Options in Education Gains Momentum," The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 28).

Parents continue to clamor for the right to send their children at public expense to any school they believe best meets their needs and interests. This demand is not limited to white parents.  A survey last year by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that 80 percent of Hispanics in Texas favor school choice. I have not seen any data about the percentage of blacks, but I would expect to see similar support for school choice.

If SB276 fails to become law, parental choice will simply take a different form. These include education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships and individual tax credits. The point is that parental frustration and anger have become too great for the present system to continue unchallenged. Thanks to Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the way has been paved for more innovative programs. I believe that parental choice will be the No. 1 issue in education in the coming years ("The Growing Progressive Movement to Save Public Education," The Progressive, Mar. 25). What this will ultimately mean for the nation is unclear.  But the educational landscape will certainly be unrecognizable.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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