School Reform, the Texas Way

December 12, 2012

Many countries invest heavily in education and see a rise in student test scores. However, that is not the case in the United States, where the country spends the most per-student but has lost its competitive edge when it comes to education, says Herbert J. Walberg, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education.

  • American students ranked 27th in mathematics and 21st in science in the most recent international achievement survey.
  • About 1.2 million students drop out of high school each year.
  • Forty-four percent of the dropouts who are under age 24 are jobless.

There are several reasons that can account for falling standards in American public schools:

  • The United States has the shortest school year in the industrialized world.
  • Teacher unions have their members working about 30 hours a week, compared to the typical American workweek of 40 hours a week.
  • Most public school teachers have tenure and are not held accountable for their performance.

A new reform effort is underway called Parent Trigger. A majority of parents must sign a petition to replace school staff or issue a charter to a private organization to operate or close a school. However, many school boards and unions have brought lawsuits against Parent Triggers, which prevent it from achieving anything meaningful.

Texas provides a shining example of how to expand school choice to everyone, including low- and middle-income families. One proposed reform would create a Savings Grant Program, which would reimburse parents for tuition costs of private schools or 60 percent of the Texas average per-pupil public school expenditure, whichever is cheaper.

This would allow parents to pick the best school that fits within their means and provides a powerful tool for lower- and middle-income families to afford private education. Furthermore, these are unlike private and charter schools because there are no burdensome regulations for participating schools, nor are there enrollment caps or family poverty requirements.

Source: Herbert J. Walberg, "School Reform, the Texas Way," Hoover Institution, November 27, 2012.

 

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