A Comparison of School Choice in Texas School Districts

December 4, 2013

Students in the state of Texas have the choice of charter public schools, magnet schools/programs and regular public schools. Texas boasts more than 500 charter schools, with a total of 180,000 students, and 286 magnet schools/programs with more than 250,000 students. While some larger districts offer a variety of options, smaller districts also offer a limited number of regular public schools, magnet schools or charter schools, say Lloyd Bentsen IV, a senior research fellow, and Gabriel Odom, a research associate, at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • Currently, there are 179,000 charter school students in Texas.
  • As of 2012, more than 101,000 students filled waiting lists for seats in charter schools.
  • In June 2013, 269,388 students filled the rosters of 286 magnet schools.
  • There are 7,718 regular public schools in Texas.

Parents place different values on the various types of schools, based on the quality of education they assume their child will receive in that institution. Schools compete for students in a variety of ways: quality of the athletic programs, music department, magnet programs, teacher credentials, after-school events, special needs programs and many others. In the face of stiff competition, schools can specialize. Adding a charter or magnet school -- which are inherently specialized -- increases school choice within a district more than simply adding an additional public school.

A comparison of 1,025 independent school districts in Texas shows the limited public school choice in its educational system:

  • On average, urban and suburban districts enjoy a higher level of school choice than rural districts. Thus, almost all of the districts in the more-than-average school choice category were urban and suburban districts.
  • Most of the rural districts have less-than-average school choice.
  • A large number of the districts with more-than-average school choice are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

State law limits the growth in charter school authorization to 10 per year. All private school choice legislation introduced to the Texas legislature has failed to become law. With no private school choice programs and limited public school choice, Texas will have a very limited selection of school options for students. Unrestricted charter law and private school choice would increase competition and therefore improve school efficiency, teacher quality and student achievement.

Source: Lloyd Bentsen IV and Gabriel Odom, "A Comparison of School Choice in Texas School Districts," National Center for Policy Analysis, December 2013.

 

Browse more articles on Education Issues