School Choice and My Interactions with Texas Rep. Justin Holland

Summary: I am a big fan of school choice and I thought it was a standard plank in most Republicans’ platforms. Thus I was disappointed to hear that my GOP representative in the Texas House, Justin Holland, voted against funding the recent school choice bill when he joined with Democrats to defeat the measure (1). I hope in the future we can get a more family and freedom-oriented representative.

Background on School Choice

I was intrigued by the idea of school choice from the first time I heard about it when I was doing research for one of my high school classes many moons ago. School choice usually refers to programs where the dollar value of how much a state spends on K-12 education, per student, is calculated. Parents are then given that amount and the freedom to send their child to any school they choose, public or private. In a recent state of Texas proposal, for example, that amounted to “$8,000 in taxpayer money per student” (2).

School choice programs are designed to give more control to students and their families to pursue educational outcomes to meet their needs. School choice makes schools, teachers and administrators, more accountable to students and their families by applying healthy, competitive, market pressures on them. States with school choice programs provide more “options for low-income families” and produce “increased parental satisfaction”, and education that is more “tailored to their needs”, ultimately generating “higher graduation rates.” (3)

The Rise of School Choice Initiatives

In the wake of many severely and unreasonably restrictive school policies during the COVID pandemic, and in the face of many schools now pushing LGBTQ+ and transgender indoctrination, school choice is suddenly become a hotter issue in many states (4). One site I found reports that 21 states, mostly Republican-controlled red states, have educational choice programs that “give parents enough assistance to actually make a different choice; and provide parents with a variety of private school options including religious schools.”(5) Several states that have recently passed school choice legislation over the past year including Arkansas, Utah, Iowa, and Arizona, with “Florida, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas” all considering similar legislation. (6)

Exchange with Texas Representative Justin Holland

I hope Texas is soon officially added to that list of states with school choice programs and I have been encouraged by the support of our governor was making the “parental rights and school choice bill” one of his legislative priorities. The encouragement was short lived, though, when I found out that a handful of Republican representatives joined the Democrats in defeating the bill to fund school choice in Texas. I thought there was no way that my “conservative”, “individual liberty” loving, “family values” supporting representative, Justin Holland (7), would vote against parental rights and school choice. But I was wrong. He did vote against it.

I wanted to give Rep. Holland the chance to defend his vote so I reached out to him on Twitter. I was disappointed in his response. His justification for his vote was that Texas already has “great schools” and we should “leave the public schools alone.” Read the full thread on Twitter.

My Response to Rep. Holland: Freedom Drives Improvement

I tweeted my response points back to Rep. Holland and you can see them here, but here’s the gist:

Obviously there are some good things happening in public schools in our district, but there is a lot of room for improvement as well. My family has had some good experiences with teachers, administrators, and classmates, but we have also had our share of not-so-good interactions–physical and verbal bullying, exposure to other students’ inappropriate public displays of affection and drug use, curriculum than undermines my family values, unreasonable and inflexible teachers, and unresponsive administrators. These and other issues in the public schools are not being addressed properly, and I believe that inserting more free market competition into the educational ecosystem is something that would help drive improvement in those areas and many more–for parents, students, and teachers.

I also pointed out to Rep. Holland that if public schools are so great, then those on his side of the issue would have nothing to fear from school choice. The money would flow right back to them. If public schools are meeting the needs of families, then when given the choice, people will continue to spend their money to attend the public schools. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but Holland’s position to “leave the public schools alone,” seems to indicate that he is afraid that if given the choice, many parents would not send their kids to the public schools. They need the big government apparatus to force people to continue to attend local public schools. I challenged him to take away the local public school monopoly and allow all schools–public, private, and home school–to have equal footing and earn their place in a free-market landscape of educational institutions. I urged him to give power and freedom back to the parents to pursue the best education they can for their kids.

Epilogue: Holland Gets Snarky

There is one other comment that Justin Holland made to me that I feel I should address. During our Twitter conversation, he went to my profile and saw my family picture, with my wife and our six children.

Rep. Holland then Tweeted to me “I can understand by seeing your profile how you might want a $48,000 check from the state each year. Do you pay $48,000 in property taxes to schools?” His snarky response references to the Texas bill which proposed creating an education savings account with $8,000 per student, which times 6 for the number of kids I have, would come out to $48,000.

Rep. Holland seems to be insulting the integrity of my position, implying that I have an ulterior motive which is to get monetary gain from the school choice program. Well, believe it or not, Rep. Holland, I did not have six children as a money making scheme. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127: 3-5).

I love my children and my motivation is to get the best education I can for them. The state of Texas raises taxes from all citizens and says that that revenue should be used to educate our children. The question is, who is going to control that $8,000 per student. I happen to think that, as a parent, I am much better positioned to seek out, find, and attain high quality education for my children than government bureaucrats. And I pray that, in the next election, my district will get a family and freedom-oriented representative that shares my views on school choice.

Sources:

  1. https://justthenews.com/nation/states/center-square/twenty-four-texas-house-republicans-defect-school-choice-vote
  2. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/04/04/greg-abbott-school-choice-legislature-rural-republicans/
  3. https://www.heritage.org/education/commentary/here-are-10-reasons-school-choice-winning
  4. https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2022-03-07/why-school-choice-is-suddenly-roiling-the-republican-party
  5. https://www.foxnews.com/media/states-pass-universal-school-choice-parental-rights-movement-teacher-unions-awakened-sleeping-giant
  6. https://www.justinholland.org/issues/
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