San Antonio benefits from school choice

Posted on November 13, 2018

Parents in San Antonio are increasingly exercising their right to choose the best-fit school for their children.

In fact, charter schools alone have experienced double-digit growth in enrollment in the last five years, and more than 141,000 Texas students are currently on charter school waitlists.

These numbers are no accident.

Whether it is in the form of in-district magnet schools, home-schooling, religious, private, early college high schools or charter schools, parents seek out schools that match their hopes and dreams for their children.

In a recent article, the superintendents of the Northside and North East independent school districts suggested city and county governments should take action to slow or control charter school expansion.

But San Antonio plainly benefits from educational competition. Not only do parents get to choose the school that best fits their students’ interests, but students across the city experience an education that awakens their passion for learning.

As Brooke Lucero, special education teacher at Great Hearts Northern Oaks, says, “I love that every Great Hearts teacher is committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through truth, goodness and beauty, which helps children become well-rounded and gives them confidence to change the world.”

At Choose to Succeed, a nonprofit working to attract the nation’s best public charter schools to San Antonio, we have seen how great charter schools change lives. Schools of choice offer space for future doctors, lawyers, astrophysicists, Broadway stars, authors and web developers to pursue an education that gives them the confidence and skills they need to become world-changers.

Competition exists across all industries. In San Antonio, hundreds of Starbucks locations offer the same flavor coffee and a similar experience. Thousands of San Antonians start their day with a Starbucks coffee and are happy with the experience: It is satisfying in a familiar way.

But our market also supports hundreds of smaller, artisan shops that serve a variety of coffee. Each shop must define and develop its own identity and must execute at the top of its game to attract and retain customers, especially with Starbucks so visible and familiar in the market. But when these smaller shops create a culture of excellence, they fill a clear market need. Their popularity proves this.

Like mom-and-pop coffee shops, charter schools offer an alternative.

IDEA Public Schools commits to putting every one of its students on the pathway to college, achieving 100 percent college acceptance.

KIPP offers students college-preparatory academics and character development in equal measure.

Great Hearts provides students with a classical education rooted in the great works of human history.

BASIS schools offer a college-preparatory, AP-for-all-students model, where students take the most rigorous courses available, taught by subject experts.

At Compass Rose Academy, students build entrepreneurial businesses while taking college-preparatory, liberal arts classes.

The School of Science and Technology expose its students to the vast depth of study they can explore across scientific disciplines.

And Promesa Academy focuses on world studies as early as kindergarten to build worldly learners and leaders.

These school models add much-needed flavor to our school system, and the increasing enrollment numbers prove parents are hungry for the alternatives they provide.

We believe school choice is good for San Antonio, and we welcome a productive conversation on how to work together. But the conversation must be had in good faith. Parents seek out charter schools because they are unhappy with their local district.

When superintendents and other executives point to charters as the biggest problem these school systems face, they expose the real problem at ISDs — a refusal to look inward to fix what is driving families away.

At Choose to Succeed, we believe families should make decisions for themselves. Charter school oversight is the responsibility of the state of Texas, not the City Council.

Pitting one school concept against another will only undermine our collective efforts to educate our children.

Chip Haass is CEO of Choose to Succeed.