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If you’re not paying attention to Texas right now, you should be 

A special legislative session is taking place in Texas right now, at Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s behest.  

If you’re not paying close attention to the state currently, you should be: The session is addressing school choice, among other things. The outcomes could play a role in fundamentally reshaping America’s public education. In fact, SB 1 — a bill with important ramifications for the nationwide school choice battle — has passed the Senate and is moving on to the House. 

This might seem like a stretch to those who aren’t familiar with how public school curricula are formed, adopted or distributed. The reason Texas is so important is, on its face, quite simple: Texas is one of the largest purchasers of school textbooks in the nation. What Texas schools want, the top curriculum vendors are likely to deliver. 

These vendors, along with state-run bodies, effectively determine the curriculum in any given state. If Texas public schools move toward an educational savings account (ESA) or voucher program, it’s likely to drag the state’s school curriculum board further away from the progressive curriculum material that’s made parents so eager to flee public schools in the first place. 

Of course, the states’ curriculum boards and the schools’ community leaders can determine the specific contents of their educational programs, but they need to buy books from someone — and all of the people from whom they might buy books would like very much to please Texans. 

Once you know a bit about the curriculum economy, it’s easier to see that Gov. Abbott’s efforts to shift Texas toward an ESA or similar model are one small part of a broader possible public school reform effort. 

The utter lack of parental rights in American classrooms is, after all, the result of many intersecting evils, administrative and otherwise: People charged with crafting the curricula choose morally objectionable materials for varying reasons, and too many of those charged with the education of American children are explicitly hostile to the values of the children they teach every day. 

It’s also the case that school administrations are rarely beholden in any direct way to the taxpayers who fund them. Public backlash can certainly bring about change — we’ve seen this borne out in the past few years — but there are untold numbers of parents and children who’ve been wronged or harmed by their public school system and have no recourse. 

Which is why school choice is such an excellent resource for those who would fight to reform our schools. It introduces a new and important pressure to the educational market: Teach well, or suffer the loss of your students. 

School choice doesn’t make the schooling system a “free” market, but it certainly has the potential to make it a freer one. In making it freer, even by a small margin, it improves the chances of real school reform. 

To be sure, “school reform” odds in the Texas Special Session are far from a lock, at least at this juncture. But what project in American politics could be more important than the preservation of our children’s minds, hearts and families? The classroom is where citizens, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers are formed. It’s the place where future presidents take root and are nurtured to maturity.                          

School choice is not an obscure political interest. Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa, West Virginia, Indiana, Utah and Arkansas, among others, have passed meaningful school choice laws in recent years. When it comes to educating our children, the smallest improvement is an improvement we ought to make, because the entire coming generation is impacted by the policy decisions we make today. 

And that’s why Texas is important to all of us. Maybe it is just one lever in a vast, slow-moving American political machine. But Gov. Abbott’s goal of making sure every student in Texas has the ability to get the education that best serves his or her needs is meeting a crying demand. A recent poll shows that the number of Texans who support school choice in the state is double the number of people who don’t — and what Texans want matters.  

So the eyes of America are on Texas. And with the right pressure, we could take a giant leap toward education reform and political success. Our children deserve nothing less. 

Timothy Head is the executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. 

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