School choice advocates expect thousands of Texas families, educators, and other supporters to rally in Austin at the south Capitol steps on Friday, Jan. 29, at 11 a.m. for 2016’s National School Choice Week.
“For the third year in a row we are showcasing the growing demand for more educational options in Texas. Families and educators from across the Lone Star State are coming together to demand that our leaders push for expanded school choice options,” said Randan Steinhauser with the Texas School Choice Coalition, who will oversee the event. She anticipates between 2,000-3,00o, possibly more, attending this year.
Held every January, National School Choice Week spotlights the gamut of education options available for children; this year, it falls Jan. 24-30. The often parent led movement continues to grow in popularity because of increased dissatisfaction with “one size fits all” public education. School choice remains highly contentious among its critics who say it dismantles public education by moving taxpayer dollars away from traditional public schools, attacks teachers, and privatizes schooling.
Education options decided upon by families, not education bureaucrats, is the idea behind “school choice.” Although most associated with public charter schools, the school choice umbrella also includes traditional public schools, public magnet schools, online learning, private schools, homeschooling, and open enrollment public school intra- and inter- district transfers.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Peggy Venable, Americans for Prosperity’s Texas Director, who will be at Friday’s rally. Venable served as the first White House liaison to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) under the Reagan administration. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed USED into law.
“It is time for an education revolution,” she said, one that will come from “the outside” rather than from insiders. “Monopolies do not reform themselves as they are too intent on protecting the status quo; education bureaucrats are often intent on protecting the adults in the system.”
Breitbart Texas reported on the long list of educratic organizations and lobbyists that oppose school choice including the Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA), the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT), a branch of the second largest teachers’ union in the nation, the American Federation of Teachers; and the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), an affiliate of the largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association (NEA).
Texas grocery store magnate Charles Butt opposes school choice and funds Raise Your Hand – Texas, described as a “seasoned lobbying force on education issues at the Capitol,” and the Texas Parent PAC. Also against school choice are the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), defined by BallotPedia as “a government sector lobbying association” funded by taxpayer dollars, and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), the lobbyist group which publicly elected Texas school board members join.
Says Venable, “The unions are about money and power, not what is in the students’ best interests.” She recounted when the U.S. Education Department released the iconic report A Nation at Risk, which she called a “wakeup call that we were failing to educate our next generation.” She said, “Over 30 years later, we are a nation still at risk.”
This year’s Austin-held pro-school choice rally falls in between the state’s legislative sessions. Still, pro-school choice Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, charged the Senate Education Committee with studying school choice programs enacted in other states during the interim period. In a recent statement, Patrick said: “I want Texas to have the best schools in the country and in order to get there, we must empower parents to seek the best school for their children.” He also indicated the 85th Legislature will see a more comprehensive school choice bill.
Matt Prewett with Texans for School Choice told Breitbart Texas, “Our hope is that legislators will be inspired to provide all public schools (district, charter, and online) with adequate funding to educate children from low-income households and children with significant disabilities.”
The rally will feature remarks from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, educators, parents, and students plus recognize state Senators Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) and Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) for their commitment to education reform, according to the event press release.
Participating groups include Families Empowered, Texas Institute for Education Reform, Institute for Justice, ResponsiveEd, Americans for Prosperity – Texas, LIBRE Initiative, Texas Catholic Conference, Texas Charter Schools Association, Texas Private Schools Association, Connections Academy, Texas Business Leadership Council, Reason Foundation, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Paz en el Barrio El Concillo de East Austin, and Liberty Action Texas. Although not officially participating, the Texas Home School Coalition (THSC) also supports school choice. “We believe that as parents are able to make more and more decisions and choices regarding the education of their children it will benefit children and society as a whole,” THSC’s Tim Lambert told Breitbart Texas.
Gov. Greg Abbott proclaimed Jan. 24-30 “School Choice Week” in Texas. In its fifth year, National School Choice Week showcased education options for children in over 16,000 rallies, conferences, and other activities.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.