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Houston senator proposes school 'revolution'

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

As Texas lawmakers assemble beneath the capitol rotunda in Austin, they will quickly collide with a landslide of proposed school reforms championed by the newly appointed Senate Education chairman, Dan Patrick of Houston.

Patrick's battle cry will be "choice".

"It's a moral issue," he said.  "Every parent has a right, whether you have a child with a severe disability or whether you have a child in a failing school.  You should have a right to send your child to the school that you think can best help that child.  It's about their life."

Backed by top Republican leaders, he hopes to lift the state's limit on the number of loosely regulated charter schools.

"We have 100,000 kids on the wait list for charters," he said.  "These are parents that want their kids to do better, who are willing to make the sacrifice if they have the option."

He also wants to allow Texas businesses to funnel a share of their state taxes to a private school scholarship fund aimed at kids living in poverty.

Opponents have labeled that proposal a "voucher program."

"The Catholic schools, the Jewish schools, the Protestant Christian schools are all behind this," Patrick said.  "Families in the inner cities are behind it."

Pushing "choice" to the limit, he hopes to eliminate barriers that currently prevent students from crossing district boundaries in pursuit of better schools.

"If you live in Houston ISD and there's room in Spring Branch, go to a Spring Branch school," he said.

Critics claim the senator's slate of "choice" legislation will weaken existing public schools by draining scarce resources.

Patrick offered this response:

"I'm not going to accept that lie being told anymore.  I'm going to fight it from the roof tops.  I'm going to fight it in the streets because it is lie."

Under Patrick's legislation, both traditional and charter schools that are unable to emerge from failure within two years will be shutdown.  Troubled schools currently receive five years to achieve an acceptable level of performance.

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