Commentary: Parent wants education choice for all Texas kids

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to call a special session to pass an education choice bill.

Editor’s note: This commentary, written by team members at the Institute for Justice, orginally appeared June18 in the Beaumont Enterprise.

Texas parent Danielle Chavez loves public schools, just not the one near her previous home in Port Arthur. She enrolled her children anyway because state law gives little choice. Yet things became unbearable.

Chavez has a son with special needs, and she met resistance from faculty and staff when she tried advocating on her son’s behalf. Chavez soon felt beat down.

“You shouldn’t have to fight and argue,” she says. “But to them he was just a problem, and it was easier to push him aside.”

Families with resources have options when conflicts at an assigned public school arise. They can stay and seek change. They can withdraw their children and homeschool. They can switch to a private school. Or they can move to a different neighborhood, often with higher real estate prices. But these educational options are not viable for lower-income families. They are stuck.

Chavez and her husband straddle these worlds. They could not just pick up their family and leave the area due to their employment situation, nor could they afford a mortgage in nearby Beaumont to access better educational options. But they found a compromise: a small house within their budget on the outskirts of the city, just inside the attendance boundaries of a public school district that more closely fit their needs.

The move required sacrifice. In exchange for location, Chavez and her husband had to give up square footage — a big deal for a family with seven children, including foster and adoptive children. Yet the move paid off for her son at the new school.

“Immediately, they were so welcoming,” Chavez says. “They were comfortable and excited to have him.”

Her son has thrived since then and is on track to graduate in 2024. Now Chavez wants to advocate for other families, especially those trapped in a one-size-fits-all public school system.

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BY Special to NextSteps