NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

School Choice in Texas

October 31, 2011

While Texas has made some strides in school choice over the last decade, there are many changes the state could make to enhance school choice for Texans.  If the state is to keep up with rapid expansions in non-traditional schooling nationwide, Texas state lawmakers will need to make a system of education that is more flexible and provides more options to parents.  This goal can be partially accomplished by focusing efforts on the expansion of charter schools, the implementation of vouchers and tax credits, and the proliferation of virtual course options, says James Golsan, an education policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

  • The Texas Charter School Association estimates that there are slightly fewer than 120,000 students enrolled in the state's 185 charter schools, while the waiting list for these schools increased from 17,000 in 2008 to 40,000 in 2009.
  • While Texas has progressed little in the use of vouchers or education tax credits, 67,267 and 123,544 students, respectively, participated in these funding structures nationwide.
  • The Texas Virtual Schools Network (TxVSN), a state-run program for virtual education, enrolled 8,524 students in its most recent semester (summer 2011), while 450,000 students participated in online learning nationwide.

With regard to the use of charter schools, Texas stands to gain from growth and expansion in its current program.  Charter schools provide an atmosphere in which school administrators and teachers are able to innovate and experiment in order to provide an improved education.  However, as demonstrated by waiting list figures above, demand currently outstrips supply of charter schools.  In order to alleviate this problem, the Texas state legislature should remove its hard limit of 215 charter schools to allow for an expansion in this field.

Texas state lawmakers should also give more thought to the creation of statewide voucher and tax credit systems, as these augment the creation of flexible education programs that fit the desires of parents and the needs of students.

Finally, the state should open its virtual education system to competitive market forces to allow for a greater supply of courses, and should also remove restrictions that it currently places on virtual course usage.

Source: James Golsan, "School Choice in Texas: Where We Are, and Where We Should Be," Texas Public Policy Foundation, October 2011.

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