Lou Ann Anderson | Watchdog Arena
The Texas Economy and School Choice, a new Laffer Associates study jointly commissioned by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Association of Business, finds a Taxpayer Savings Grant Program—a statewide universal school choice program under consideration by the Texas Legislature—offers important benefits to both Texas school children and the state’s economy.
At a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 7, Texas Association of Business CEO Bill Hammond spoke of the Texas workforce facing a skills gap. He contended post-secondary education is essential and the public school system is graduating neither enough students, nor enough who are career or college-ready.
Hammond described this gap as impacting both businesses and Texas school children. He further noted how competition is essential, and competition in schools serves to improve prospects for all involved.
When it comes to universal school choice, taxpayers, employers, kids and the economy win, Hammond said.
With the report’s unveiling and the 84th Texas Legislature soon convening, state Sen. Donna Campbell announced her filing of a Taxpayer Savings Grant bill, legislation the New Braunfels Republican termed a “game changer,” turning poor-performing schools into better schools and making good schools even greater.
Citing Texas as having a “moral obligation” to ensure every child has equal access to educational opportunities, Campbell spoke of how no child should be trapped in a failing or chronically under-performing school though “sadly we know there are.”
“Too often kids are forced to attend school based on their zip code,” Campbell said. “Allowing parents to choose the schools which best meet their child’s needs is the best way to level the playing field between the haves and have-nots.”
Economist and report author Art Laffer discussed that besides reducing dropout rates, closing educational achievement gaps and enhancing educational innovation, statewide school choice is seen as a mechanism to stimulate economic growth thereby creating new jobs and incentivizing in-migration to Texas.
“You have an opportunity to make a difference,” he said. Using examples like decreased crime rates, increased wages and enhanced business opportunity, Laffer revealed not a single socio-economic measure goes unimproved with the implementation of school choice.
“We live in a competitive world and the introduction of choice to schools is key,” he stated. “It’s the next way to make Texas and then the rest of the nation perform really well.”
“Once you get school choice, public schools get scared and all of a sudden start providing a lot higher quality service,” Laffer said.
Comparing public schools to the post office or Department of Motor Vehicles, the economist reminded how once an alternative is introduced, service gets better.
“I can’t think of one negative for supporting school choice,” Laffer concluded.
This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.