Texas has a reputation as a business-friendly state that favors the free market and consumer choice over heavy government regulation.
But when it comes to education reform and school choice, they're actually behind the curve. Like parents in many states, those in Texas must send their children to public schools in their district unless they have the cash for a private school, leaving choice in education only to the wealthiest.
Without school choice, Texas ranks among the lowest in combined SAT scores—45th out of 50 states—and is in the bottom quarter nationally in reading proficiency. One out of every four students fails to graduate high school, and Black and Hispanic students are twice as likely to leave school before getting a diploma than White students.
"Without school choice there will be no reform of public education in America," states Allan Parker, president of The Justice Foundation.
Some political leaders have supported school choice initiatives to raise education standards, but lawmakers have often rejected those bills during legislative session.
But this year is different. The new governor, Greg Abbott, has made school choice a priority, as has the incoming Trump administration.
"I think the momentum for Texas school choice is really growing," says Randan Steinhauser, executive director of Texans for Education Opportunity.
And Texas is not settling for charter schools, but instead pushing for something even more radical: education savings accounts (ESAs), which would give parents the ability to spend tax money on education options outside of the traditional government school system.
Reason TV visited the capitol building in Austin during National School Choice Week for the Texas School Choice Rally to talk to parents and reform advocates about the promise and potential pitfalls of ESAs, which advocates believe are the next frontier for the school choice movement.
Produced by Alexis Garcia and Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Weissmueller and Mark McDaniel. Graphics by Josh Swain. Music by Silent Partner.
National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education, runs from January 22 through January 28. Over 21,000 events involving almost 17,000 schools from all 50 states will take place over the coming days. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice–charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more–is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. As a proud media sponsor of National School Choice Week, Reason will be publishing daily articles, podcasts, videos, interviews, and other coverage exploring the ways in which education is being radically altered and made better by letting more people have more choices when it comes to learning. For a constantly updated list of stories, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice."