Editor's Note: Park Meadows Academy Parents Dave and Katie Huber wrote the following guest commentary in response to a submission titled "We're not buying what the governor is selling" by the Corsicana Independent School District Board of Trustees published in the Saturday, March 4 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.
Re: CISD ‘isn’t buying into’ Parent Empowerment
Last month, Governor Greg Abbott made a stop in Corsicana for a lively “Parent Empowerment Night,” hosted by Park Meadows Academy, at the Calvary Worship Center. Parents of school-aged children, from a variety of schools in the community and surrounding areas, attended to hear the Governor’s plan to improve Texas education. His idea is simple: To empower parents to choose the best learning environments for their children, regardless of where they live, or how much money their parents have. The cheers and support from the huge majority in attendance was evident. Shortly thereafter, the CISD School Board published an article in the Corsicana Daily Sun, stating their opposition to the plan, saying “We’re not buying it.”
Today, property taxes are what fund the local government school districts. If a parent moves their child out of a government-run school, into a private institution or home school, those educational funds do not follow the child. So the parent is left paying hefty, out-of-pocket expenses in addition to the taxes they are already paying for the government-run schools they no longer use. This automatically creates an income gap—some can afford to choose, most cannot, depending on their pay check. It is either too expensive to move to a better school district, where the tax dollars can be used, or it is too expensive to pay extra for a private, charter, or home school environment. Governor Abbott proposes a solution that 30 other states have already successfully adopted over the last 20 plus years. His plan dilutes the power of superintendents and school boards over families and rather puts parents in the driver seat; regardless of their zip code or wealth status.
Abbott’s plan sets up Education Savings Accounts for each school-aged child, allowing parents to choose the School that gets the funds. A plan that over 75% of Navarro County voters approved in the most recent election cycle via referendum, by the way. In other words, parents can choose to keep their child in public school, or, if the parents think there is a better school for their child’s needs, the funds would follow the child to the school of their choice. How much could that help lower-income families who desire a change for their children? Providing more choices, without the financial burden associated with making a change, sounds like a good idea, so why is the CISD School Board against it?
This is not a new idea. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of school choice. The results are clear. When school choice comes in, public schools improve. Florida was one of the first to adopt ESAs. From 2003 to 2019, National Assessment of Educational Progress outcomes show that Florida’s elementary school reading proficiency for low-income students increased from No. 33 in the United States to No. 1. So the benefits are hard to ignore. With so many states making sweeping changes to improve their educational systems through similar programs, shouldn’t we consider it in our own state—in our own community, where it matters most? Or do we want Texas to fall behind?
CISD School Board’s first concern was that giving parents the ability to choose private education doesn’t guarantee they will be able to get their child into their preferred private school. But does this sound like reason enough not to empower parents with more choices? This concern is emphasized with a vague statistic about “other states” and concludes that ESAs don’t provide choice, they provide a refund to those who could already afford to choose. Now we see the true concern. This is about money and the schools that currently receive tax dollars from families they don’t even serve.
The next “concern” that the board shares is that transparency doesn’t exist in private schools like it does in public schools. They claim that private schools are not truly accountable to parents. First off, private schools HAVE to be accountable to parents because, unlike public school parents, if they aren’t, the families can easily “take their business” elsewhere. With the sheer volume of transparency problems that were revealed in government-run education systems during and since the Covid pandemic, this charge seems laughably hypocritical. But Education Savings Accounts give parents the ability to move their child at the first sign of trouble, and the education funds would follow— a luxury that many don’t enjoy with the current system. With ESAs EVERY school is accountable to parents. And the truth remains—private and charter schools, at least in our great community, put the control in the parent’s hands. The schools are simply an extension of the home—so the non-transparency claim is, again, actually a non-issue.
Another concern is that children will no longer receive a quality education due to “no accountability” in private and charter schools. Should we compare test scores among all the schools? Should we compare teacher and student satisfaction surveys? The truth is, our community’s private schools have very high standards, great results, and they accomplish it all by making efficient use of every dollar they receive (doing much more with far less funds available, both as a whole, and per child).
Why doesn’t the school board “buy-in” to parent empowerment? Because if a parent wants to move their child, they would be able to and their educational funding would follow. This creates competition for the school board and that means pressure to improve. If the government run school doesn’t improve, parents can move their child’s funding elsewhere. The school board doesn’t want parents to have power over funding—we should all be asking “WHY?” Aren’t they our children? Our responsibility? Why do they need the funding that is supposedly allocated for the children that don’t attend? This is not logical, and it certainly doesn’t promote family-first nor freedom.
Let’s stop focusing on money for just a second. The Governor says his plan ensures public education systems will continue to receive the full funding they need anyway. In fact, the legislation would even fund a child’s spot at a public school for two whole years after the child leaves. Yes, you heard that right, two years of funding for the public school, without ANY of the costs associated of the student being present. This idea is simple—parents know what is best for their own children. Let them choose. To oppose this is to say, “parents need to be forced to keep their kids where government sees fit. They can have choices, so long as they pay out-of-pocket for those choices, over and beyond their already hefty property tax bill!” For lower-income families, this means no choice at all.
Food for thought, the United States Post Office greatly improved its service when it had to begin competing against FedEx and UPS. Competition has a way of improving those who participate in it. What if our public schools finally had to compete for the students and their funding, rather than having mandated streams of income simply because you pay your taxes? The quality of education at these schools would undoubtedly improve. This sounds like a great idea. But regardless, the current legislation still fully funds our public schools, so again this should be a non-issue.
Recruitment benefits from government schools to teachers are happening because teachers have school choice currently (which is how it SHOULD be). Schools must compete for them today (again, a good thing). Imagine if parents had school choice like teachers do. We can only imagine the wonderful benefits, programs, and treatment families would receive.
Maybe it’s time to unlock our God-given freedoms when it comes to the education of our own children. Maybe it’s time to listen to the vast majority of families across this great state who support this powerful legislation. Maybe it’s time to notice the educational improvements in other states that have already led the way. Let’s stand up for our kids! Let’s dig in and read through the legislation ourselves so we better understand it! Let’s support this massive move in the right direction towards freedom. Maybe it’s time for the CISD School Board and the rest of us, to “buy into” parent empowerment.
Please call or email our Representative, Cody Harris’ office, at 903-731-4005—let him know this is important to you. Join freedom fighters at the Parent Empowerment Rally from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 21 at the Texas State Capitol.
Education Committee hearings should be starting soon, and we should all want to ensure our legislator hears from us and why we support Parent Empowerment with Education Savings Accounts.
Join the Parent Empowerment Coalition and parents from around the great state of Texas on Tuesday, March 21, to show your support for Parent Empowerment. The rally at the Capitol will be followed by a complimentary lunch and a screening of Miss Virginia, a powerful film about the parental right to choose the best education for our children. Kids are welcome to come see democracy in action with Governor Greg Abbott!
See you there!
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