The $40M Question: Bohac Wants Texas to Pay Transportation Costs When Students Switch Public Schools

If the state of Texas can just come up with $40 million a year, it can fund what the state's Legislative Budget Board thinks will be the annual cost to provide transportation for public school kids who -- along with their parents -- want to transfer to another, presumably better, public school.

State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) has offered up House Bill 1796 which among other things would establish protocols for students who transfer to other public schools to receive transportation if they live more than two miles from their school. In many school districts, such as Spring Branch ISD where Bohac lives, students who opt to change schools have to come up with their own transportation.

Bohac says he's introduced this bill to help low-income people whose kids are trapped in poor-performing schools. "The primary reason poor students don't transfer to a different school if you listen to their parents is that they don't have the money to get the student from one school to another," he said.

He denied he is doing this in any way to benefit himself. The father of four says two of his children go to Second Baptist -- "They need the spiritual component to their education" -- and the other two attend Spring Branch Middle School where they are zoned. No transfer transportation needed in either case.

"This would be for any open enrollment school district," he said. His bill is just the first step, he acknowledged. "The Legislature would have to agree to appropriate it [the money]. We're just trying to get to a logical discussion. This is about economic justice."

Asked about critics who say that by taking students away from one school, the school left behind deteriorates even further, Bohac said, "The parent is the customer. The parent gets to make that choice. Competition makes things better; it makes the system better."

"This has nothing to do with vouchers," he said. "This is public school choice."

"We're giving parents more options and particularly giving students at the lower socioeconomic end opportunities to escape a poor-performing school and going to a higher performing school."

Another key component of his bill (which also modernizes the language regarding such transfers, the state rep says) is to establish a database of all the schools in Texas, showing both their areas of emphasis and whether they are at capacity for student enrollment or not.

"It's the central data base that gives the parent-customer information about schools in their district or their neighboring districts," he said. "That's brand new."

"We're modernizing the public education system by putting information online about what schools have capacity and what their focus is so parent-customers can kind of go shop so to speak for the public school that fits their needs."

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing