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School Choice and Charters Top 2015 Agenda

Time Warner Cable Austin
November 17, 2014

By Karina Kling

The 2015 legislative session is likely to see a slew of such education legislation. Lt. Governor-Elect and current Education Chairman Dan Patrick told a Senate committee Monday that school choice already exists in Texas if you have the money to send your kid to private school.

"We already have school choice. Let's not argue that point. We just want to give school choice for every student in Texas," he said.

The issue of funding transportation came up when talking about allowing students to go to their school of choice, but some Democrats pointed out there's not enough buses to go around even now.

"If you're proposing that we burden them further then we have to come up with a solution to make sure all kids have access to transportation to get to the school they need to get to," Sen. Sylvia Garcia said.

Assessing the recent expansion of charter schools was also addressed. Last session, lawmakers decided to gradually increase the cap on the number of charters in the state from 215 to 305 by 2019.

The head of the Texas Charter Schools Association told committee members that has helped increase student enrollment by 32,000, pushing their statewide total above 200,000.

"But even with that rapid increase in student placement, a waiting list of over 100,000 students persists," David Dunn said.

The issue not addressed Monday was the impending school finance debate. Lawmakers will likely take that up in a special session after the state's high court rules on the constitutionality of the current system.

Now that Patrick will be taking over as lieutenant governor, he'll be naming his replacement to chair the education committee. That person has not yet been announced.