School choice rallies in Austin

Two very different takes on School Choice were on display Tuesday. Several thousand students, teachers and parents rallied at the state capitol, while Austin ISD was promoting its own brand of education choice.

It started out sounding more like a school pep rally. But the 4,000 to 5,000 students, parents and teachers who marched around the state capitol grounds came with a very political message. They believe it’s time for state lawmakers to allow tax dollars, sent to public school districts, to be used for Private, Charter  and Home Schooling.

"At the end of the day, school choice week is about celebrating quality and great education options, we want to empower every single parent with access to an education that works for their child,” said Rally Organizer Randan Steinhauser.

Tommy Luna exercised his choice when charter schools were expanded.  His daughter Alexia has been enrolled in a  KIPP school since kindergarten. Luna was asked if he thought his daughter would have succeeded in a public school as well as she has done now in a private school.

“That’s a good question, it really depends on the area that she is at, there's good public school out there no doubt about that, it’s hard to say, but we are very proud to have her at where she is,” said Luna.

Alexia, now a 6th grader, was selected by rally organizers to introduce Governor Greg Abbott. There was a big cheer when the Governor made a pledge about any school choice bill that makes it to his desk.

"I will make the choice to sign it and authorize school choice in the state of Texas,” said Governor Abbott.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also promised to push school choice legislation through the state senate, but said the idea hasn't had much success on the house side.

"I say give us a vote, up or down on school choice in this 85th legislative session," said Patrick.

Not everyone who traveled here for this rally is 100 percent behind every school choice idea being pitched. Some parents that homeschool said they're worried about too much government interference.

"Don’t want to be regulated, so leave us out of the new category of school at home people, school at home by the government that they are trying to create, by giving subsidies, we don’t want subsidies,  we don’t want regulation, we want freedom, “ said Paula Broadway from Brazoria County.

Earlier AISD held its own school choice rally. The gathering at Anderson High was smaller in comparison, but the claims of success were just as big.

"And AISD schools, when you step into that building, you have an enormous amount of choice, you have robotics, you have dual language, you have culinary, you have college credit, you have athletics the things that feed our children's souls. Other choices fall short of what AISD does,” said Ken Zarifis with Education Austin.

This year almost 8,000 students were allowed to transfer from their neighborhood school to another that offers specialized classes. Janet Jackson spoke about how transferring provided her grandson with new after school opportunities like chess, band and choir.

"But out of all those he tasted and he selected athletics. Because he loved to have that playing time after school two days a week building friends and the team work he is building there is a life skill he will never forget,” said Jackson.

In the coming weeks state lawmakers will get their turn to make a choice as committee hearings begin.

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