Texas celebrates National School Choice Week

During National School Choice Week 2021, schools and organizations across Texas are partnering with families to raise awareness about the different K-12 education options available.

Gov. Greg Abbot issued an official proclamation recognizing the celebration, and recorded an informational video posted on YouTube.

The McLennan County Courthouse in Waco is participating in the national “Shine for School Choice Week” by lighting up in yellow every day this week.

The light displays are one of more than 33,000 virtual or socially distanced events being held nationwide – including social media contests, drive-in movie screenings, scavenger hunts and virtual school fairs. Texas families can find events near them on the National School Choice Week website.

The nonprofit National School Choice Week organization provides a range of information for parents about educational options and learning environments. Resources include a “school finder” tool, which allows parents to search for educational options by zip code. Parents can learn about online schools in Texas here as well as about Texas’ homeschooling laws.

Texas’ 7.1 million children attend traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, home schools and learning pods.

In Texas, public schools operated by school districts are free to attend, open to all students, and fully funded by taxpayers costing roughly $9,000 per student.

Within the public school system are hundreds of magnet schools, which allow students to focus on a specific learning track.

In 2020, Texas charter schools celebrated 25 years since the state’s charter school law was passed. Since then, roughly 320,000 students are enrolled in more than 750 charter schools statewide.

There are more than 1,100 private schools in Texas, with an average tuition cost of roughly $9,588 per year, according to Private School Review.

The federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.

Texas offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, including tuition-free online schooling through the Texas Virtual School Network’s Online Schools.

However, over the last year, and even before the state’s shutdown, Texas families have been increasingly homeschooling. Parents have withdrawn their children from public school systems at historic levels, the Texas Home School Coalition reported based on available state data in a new online map it published.

The coalition estimates that more than 670,000 students are being home-schooled in Texas, which could translate into Texas saving more than $7 billion that would otherwise be directed to public school system funding per year.

The number of students withdrawing from public schools to home-school has averaged an annual growth rate of 6.5 percent between 1997 and 2019 but exploded after the state shutdown of in-person instruction in March.

This year marks the 11th annual celebration of National School Choice Week; the first celebrations held were in January 2011.

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