The “Texas Miracle” may be under a threat far graver than a faltering energy sector: failing schools.
While there are only a few beats left in the heart of the current special session, the 85th Legislature can still equitably fund education and direct more dollars to classrooms so quality teachers receive higher merit-based pay.
Even with a 22-year record of growth, student outcomes, and parental demand, public charter schools are still not recognized by some as fully part of the public education system and quite frankly, enough is enough. Students at charter schools should not be penalized because parents select the best school that meets their needs.
If it becomes law, SB 2 will siphon an estimated $600 million away from public education in the form of “tax credit scholarships” (read: “vouchers”) to unregulated private schools for special-needs children. While that sounds nice, there only are 51 private special education schools in the state, exactly zero of which exist outside of major cities.
The state’s portion of public school facilities funding peaked at 45 percent in 2000-2001, but now stands at a meager 7 percent. As state support declines, families’ annual property tax bills increase across the state — especially in our most desirable suburban communities which, ironically, are represented by some of our most conservative legislators.
Despite having less money per student to work with, school districts have prioritized spending such that average teacher pay has risen by almost $5,400 since 2008. The real issue is not how schools prioritize their spending, but rather how the state prioritizes its own spending on public education.
Instead of doing their jobs to repair their shameful failure in public schools, the Texas governor and lieutenant governor want to bribe families out of their children’s educational civil rights by offering vouchers to nowhere with their proposal to use public money for private schooling of special needs students.
As this year’s group of high school students looked at their test scores and learned whether or not they would be graduating, their teachers noticed something a little... odd. The students who took the paper version of the English 2 STAAR test passed with a raw score of 41. The students who took the online version? The special education and dyslexic students? They needed a 42 to pass.
It is clear the Legislature is not willing to invest in prekindergarten. We had a real chance in 2015 to make a meaningful investment in our youngest students, but instead decided to shortchange them. The 85th Texas Legislature made it even worse.
Put yourself in the shoes of a special needs student or parent for a moment: Would you desire a limited set of options and cold-blooded state policies discouraging districts from meeting your needs? Or would you desire a system in which you have additional options if things don’t work out?
This special session outline is a slap in the face to teachers and public schools at a time when they are being asked to do more with less. The founders knew what they were doing. Texans should be wary of what happens in Austin after the regular session adjourns in May.
Texas public school students face many of the same realities as my students in Medellin, Colombia, largely because Texas also lacks an equitable public education funding plan.
House Bill 21 may not have been perfect, but it did provide significant additional funding to help schools through the next biennium until the system could, hopefully, be “upended”, as suggested by the state Supreme Court. But in the hands of the Senate and Lt. Gov. Patrick, it became nothing more than a vehicle for passing school vouchers, a major political item on Patrick’s “to do” list this session.
The proposed ESA program in House Bill 21 recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all-approach to educating students. If it is enacted, parents would have the option of using money deposited in their ESA to pay for tuition at accredited private schools, tutoring, special-education therapies, homeschool curriculum, online courses or any combination of those options.
But blissful ignorance is unacceptable when it comes to Texas schools. Of course, no one wants to believe that their schools are “failing” or even that they have room to improve. But by weakening accountability and assessment measures, we’re only kicking the can down the road while turning a blind eye to the issues in our state’s education system.
Blended learning combines the traditional classroom with online or digital resources and may incorporate a self-paced element based on students’ interests or learning level. Aside from teaching how to use technology, blended learning reduces educational costs, increases the number of subjects learned, helps students strive further in particular subjects and allows teachers greater one-on-one relationships with students.
After six years behind the desk, I can definitely see the Texas teacher shortage and its causes: Low pay, mediocre insurance and benefits, an emotionally demanding workload, the unspoken requirement of personal investment on a financial level, constantly changing regulations written by people who have not entered a public school classroom since their own high school graduations.
Texas should give its special-needs children an opportunity to receive the specialized care they deserve and to fulfill our state constitutional mandate. House Bill 1335 would give all special-needs students in Texas an alternative to the one-size-fits all public school system by establishing an innovative form of parental choice.
The removal of federal education regulations under the Trump Administration places greater responsibility on state policymakers to regulate school district resource allocation.
Rather than adequately funding struggling schools (a small number of the state’s 8,500 public schools are struggling), state leaders fault teachers and propose schemes to privatize education that would enrich a few at the expense of many by draining even more funds from public schools.
Research shows that students who take AP mathematics and science are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in physical science, engineering and life science. Encouraging students to pursue college-level work reaps tremendous economic returns for Texas.
Public funds for school districts could certainly be used more efficiently, but spending money more efficiently is different from spending less money. If we want Texas to have a prosperous future, ESAs are not the way to go.
Texas can lead the nation by taking the next logical step and establishing parent-managed accounts for all types of K-12 services. Education funding should go first to parents, and then to providers and schools — not the other way around.
There’s no state mandate to collect group academic data for kids who don’t take standardized tests. Data is a double-edged sword: the same data that shows areas for improvement also illuminates failures. There are legal remedies for failure; parents can take the district through “due process” and ultimately to court to insure their child’s access to an appropriate education is preserved.
Families, the business community, academic researchers and policymakers all especially understand the importance of Pre-K for low-income children. For them, it is most often the very difference between academic success and failure.
While policymakers are gathered for the 2017 Texas legislative session, a discussion about teacher preparation, which directly affects teacher retention, is of critical importance. To help students gain belief in themselves and the subjects they’re studying, teachers must be prepared to manage their classrooms and give all students the tools to access challenging material — especially students who have been let down in the past.
SB6 puts public school teachers like me in a precarious position. Environment has an enormous effect on a student’s ability to learn, and legislation that denies any student the right to a safe educational setting must be stopped.
For 22 years, charter schools have provided options within public education, yet some Texans are understandably confused about how these schools work. Public charter schools are frequently — and incorrectly — lumped in with private, religious, or home schools.
Thirty U.S. states are home to 61 government programs that provide financial assistance to parents who choose private schools for their children. Texas is not one of them. That could be changing.
If we want to ensure that every one of our Texas schoolchildren has the opportunity to flourish, then we need to innovate beyond the antiquated method of conveyor-belt education, where children become “products,” and where parental freedom is quashed by “the system.”
School choice is not about advocating for one form of education over another. It is not about choosing private over public. Rather, school choice is about empowering parents with access to the best educational setting for their child — no matter where they live or how much money they make.
If we are to uphold the Texas Constitution, we need to be clear on what the “support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” means. Giving families taxpayer money to spend on private institutions has nothing to do with maintaining public free schools.
Without an A-F system like this, we won’t know if more money in the education system is actually making a difference. If we don’t create more transparency, then we can’t identify the schools and systems that are getting top results so that we can study, learn from and copy their practices.
When the complex nature of educating large numbers of diverse children can be subverted with an oversimplified letter grade that says next to nothing, arguing for the need to replace that school becomes that much easier
The Texas Constitution requires the Legislature “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” The state has the authority to create additional education programs that complement its constitutional mandates, including school choice.
One third of annual local taxes raised to operate Austin ISD are actually diverted to recapture payments. Massive increases in local property tax proceeds serve populations in other parts of the state. Meanwhile, the state reaps the benefit while reducing its own financial responsibilities.
Recapture. The infamous, intimidating, complex school finance policy often referred to as "Robin Hood." The very term imparts a sense of negativity. But why?
No government body will ever be perfect, but the State Board of Education has made strides to become representative of all Texans.
Texas' Constitution, courts and lawmakers have combined to make funding public education almost impossible.
If Texas uses STAAR testing as a basis for school funding, the state's slow creep toward a separate and unequal school system will turn into a sprint.
Over time, our school finance system has become increasingly complex and inefficient, unreasonably favoring some while detrimental to all others.
With the 2017 session fast approaching, it's time to tackle school finance issues head on and do something about high-stakes testing.
Much of the current funding gap between higher-poverty school districts and lower-poverty ones has resulted from how the finance system responds to economic recessions.
Making it easier for high school students to receive college credits is not a significant accomplishment if it doesn't lead to more students obtaining higher levels of education.
Education reformers are pursuing two different approaches for escaping the pitfall of turning schools into joyless test-preparation factories.
The best way to achieve an adequate, suitable, and efficient education is to move students from a waiting list to a classroom.
It's time for school funding in Texas to reflect the reality of how fast our state is growing.
My formal education ended with a master’s degree, but it started by passing the GED.
How does the Texas Supreme Court turn away poor people challenging a substantially unfair system? By changing the law and the facts to ensure they can't win.
School choice might just be the motivation legislators need to tackle the daunting task of education financing reform.
The Texas Supreme Court's school finance ruling made it clear that it's up to the Legislature to find the courage to fix Texas' broken school finance system.
If judges cede their authority to interpret the Texas Constitution over public school finance, what is the next stage of school finance purgatory?
Involving parents should be the default position for any potentially controversial new policy of an independent school district, and unfortunately in this instance, it was not.
The implementation of Fort Worth ISD’s dangerous new rules make it clear that local government officials refuse to listen to the people on this issue, and now state leaders have been left with no choice but to speak out on an issue of privacy and safety for all Texans.
The lieutenant governor doesn’t show up to school board meetings to discuss Texas' failing school system, but he won’t miss a chance to bully transgender kids who don’t want to cause any problems — they simply want to use the bathroom when the need arises.
McAllen holds some of the richest values and cultures in the country. But 25 years ago, it wasn’t the norm that someone would graduate from a high school in my hometown and head off to college and especially out of state — much less that they’d become a CEO one day.
As the end of the school year approaches, many high school seniors and their parents are looking ahead to the next big step in life — going to college. But for far too many, that excitement somehow fades between spring graduation and fall enrollment.
The more Texans we have who understand the complex issues surrounding public school finance, the more likely we are to find great solutions.
Texas Supreme Court has treated the constitutional requirement for an "efficient" system of public free schools to mean that school districts must have "substantially equal access to similar revenues per pupil at similar levels of tax effort." What does that mean, exactly? Even the court doesn't know for sure.
Some have expressed concerns about new Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath's views on school choice and his work on a “home rule” proposal in Dallas. But his track record shows he is a strong believer in the power of quality pre-K to boost school readiness and academic achievement.
Tests in Texas schools, known as the Texas Student Assessment Program, need to change.
Educator preparation programs are working diligently to address an impending teacher shortage in Texas by preparing high-quality educators, but roadblocks at the state and federal levels are stymieing progress.
One mistake is too many, and we want to do whatever we can to avoid this kind of mistake in the future. But when they happen, and they will, the important thing is to fix it, learn from it, own it and move forward.
McGraw-Hill's choice to use the word "workers" to describe slaves in their World History textbook is an attempt to write history in pencil — light and easily erasable.
Texas needs an education system that develops productive people and promotes shared prosperity. The state’s failure to address systemic problems has made the school finance system less equitable.
Unless we take the all-too-important step of implementing sound education policy, hard-working, dedicated and experienced teachers will continue to leave the profession.
In a case before the Texas Supreme Court this fall, public schools will once again demand more government funding. But that’s not the solution to fixing our education system.
As long as Texas fails to address the underlying problems in the textbook adoption process, it will remain confusing and politicized — to the detriment of students and teachers.
State lawmakers continued to underfund public schools this year, especially those serving low-income populations. But there were some wins for districts like ours.
High-performing public charter schools are working to level the playing field for Texas students growing up in poverty. It's time for the state to do its part in leveling the funding.
It’s time to stop talking about reform in Texas and to start taking action that will provide parents with options and children with opportunities.
Local governments and philanthropists are working to ensure access to these crucial programs, but it’s time for the state to step up.
As the Legislature continues to debate the future of pre-kindergarten in Texas, new data confirm that investing in early childhood education is good for both students and the state.
All too often, the public education system slams the door in the faces of parents whose children attend failing schools. It's time for Texas to give parents the ability to force districts to make changes.
Despite widespread opposition, efforts to take money from our public schools are up for debate in Texas again. Let's bury these proposals for good.
School choice proposals are popular in Texas, but opposition among rural lawmakers is only accelerating the decline of their communities.
A new plan in the Legislature to finally fix the state’s broken school finance system is encouraging. But lawmakers should proceed carefully, because there’s more to the numbers than meets the eye.
Gov. Greg Abbott has made pre-kindergarten one of his top priorities for the legislative session, but some lawmakers aren’t treating it that way.
All public schools in Texas should be able to set their own calendars. And local educators — not travel industry lobbyists in Austin — should be making those decisions.
Yes, the 13-year-old law needs an update. But now is not the time to re-litigate a decade’s worth of real progress.
To build on the education reform successes of last session, Texas lawmakers this year should seek solutions that benefit all students — not divisive, silver-bullet proposals like school vouchers.
Opponents of education reform blocked several important measures in 2013, but they're not likely to have as much luck this year. The education reform coalition in Texas is bigger, more diverse and more galvanized than ever.
Education in science and math helped me escape the poverty of the Rio Grande Valley. But those educational opportunities also led me to return to my community with a determination to give back.
To solve Texas' dropout problem, we must ensure that we’re correctly counting how many high schoolers are graduating and how many are being left behind.
Texas leads nearly every other state in high school graduation rates. The only thing that stands between us and congratulations is one little thing: Many people don't believe it. Here's why they're wrong.
While limiting local debt is a worthy objective, convincing voters to say no to new school buildings in fast-growing school districts does nothing to address the future needs of Texas.
Don't be fooled by the fringe group of critics saying that changes to AP U.S. history — one of the most highly regarded American high school courses — amount to historical revisionism. Their criticism is unfounded.
You might say a new entitlement program that could cost Texans up to $5 billion per year over the next 10 years couldn't be possible in Texas. You'd be wrong, because that's exactly what some special interests are trying to do with our education system.
As an African-American educator in Texas public schools, I’ve been viewed as both a token and a savior. Only when we start to look beyond teaching professionals’ race will we be able to do the same for students.
Like many Texas teachers, I love my work and my students, but time demands, low pay and standardized testing are taking a heavy toll. In August, I'll return for my fifth year in the classroom, but it may be my last.
As a Texas public school teacher, I've seen how badly we need a new approach to sex education — one that prioritizes our children's future and well-being over adults' resistance to discomfort.
Texas can't just be the envy of the nation. The future of our success hinges on how we educate our students.
Texas’ graduation rate is higher than the national average, and if you drill down, it becomes even more impressive. But we can't afford to let up.
The escalating education reform fight has muddled the debate over how to prepare students for college. Here’s how Texas schools should change.