Superintendent of FAILING School District is AGAINST School Choice

January 22, 2013
School choice has not happened yet because the education bureaucracy is opposed to providing parents with choices.
We hear public school officials say they want more parental and public involvement but when parents and taxpayers come to school board meetings, they are told they can speak for 3 minutes, must specify what topic they want to cover, and then sit down with none of their concerns addressed.
I was at a conference at UT last week on innovation in public schools and one attendee stood up and said, “You have taken the public out of public education.” 
Parents have every right to be frustrated when government assigns their children to a government school based solely on their zip code.  Those most vulnerable kids – those most at risk of dropping out — usually live in the poorest zip codes. 
School choice is the civil rights issue of our generation.  And we refuse to address it.  This is not a partisan issue. 
But while we continue to put more funding in public schools, only half of the funds get spent on instruction and schools have one non-teacher for every teacher. 
We hear in the article from Barbara Derrick, superintendent of Hitchcock ISD.  Is it appropriate for a superintendent of a failing school district to be telling the parents that they don’t have a choice where to send their kids to school?  I don’t think so. 
Article:  School Choice Takes Dollars Away from Public Schools
The Texas legislature has convened, and education is expected to be a major topic. Representatives from eight districts have formed the Galveston County Schools Consortium, with an eye toward making their concerns about education known. This is the third of a multipart series on the challenges facing education.

HITCHCOCK — When it comes to fixing the problems of schools, Barbara Derrick says there is no choice.
“(Whether it’s called) school choice or taxpayer savings grants, they’re the same thing,” the Hitchcock schools superintendent said. “They’re vouchers.”
School choice is a favored topic of state Sen. Dan Patrick, who chairs that body’s education committee. He has pushed for school choice for years and has said this is the year to get it done.
Although nothing has been passed yet, plans to implement school choice have common elements.
The plans would allow parents to receive taxpayer money in the form of vouchers that could be used to pay for tuition at private schools. Proponents say the vouchers would force public schools to be more competitive and thus would improve.
Derrick doesn’t agree.
“Vouchers have been tossed around since 1955 (when they were proposed) by the economist Milton Friedman,” she said. “My question is if school choice has been around for that long, why aren’t we doing it?”
The reason is simple, Derrick said.
“When you look beyond theory, arithmetic gets in the way,” she said. “The amount of the grant being tossed around is not enough to cover the entire cost (of private school). One voucher being considered is for $5,143, but the average cost of private school is $10,000 to $12,000 per year.”
Voucher plans would end up reducing the funds for public schools, Derrick said.
“School choice takes dollars away from public schools,” she said. “How can schools move ahead if they have less to work with? Funds are needed to recruit and keep good teachers. We need updated materials and technology advances and much more.”
If vouchers do get approved, Derrick wants to see equality.
“Private schools (need to be) held to the same state accountability and legislative mandates that are funded and not funded,” she said.
Contact reporter John DeLapp at 409-683-5244 or
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