Archives for category: Texas

A few days ago, I saluted Representative Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, Texas, for his plan to add $3 billion to the public schools’ budget.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, a powerful figure in the state, prefers vouchers.

Happily, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial supporting Aycock and dismissing vouchers. This is the real world, folks, not fantasy land, where wishes are horses. The legislature cut the public schools by $5 billion and has restored only a tiny fraction. Meanwhile the children are majority Hispanic, and they are in public schools. Their schools need the resources, the teachers, the class sizes, and the librarians and social workers to help them now.

The Chronicle says:

“While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick scampers down a rabbit trail in pursuit of costly school-voucher legislation, an influential public education policymaker in the House is doing what’s right for Texas school children and Texas taxpayers.

“State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, announced last week that the lower chamber will tackle the daunting task of finding a fair and equitable way for the state to fund its public schools.
By taking up the challenge instead of waiting for a state Supreme Court ruling, the low-key Republican chairman of the Public Education Committee shows us what a true representative of the people looks like. A formerKilleen school board member, Aycock does the people’s business with little fanfare, with an effort to be fair and open to all sides and with a goal to getting useful things accomplished….

“Patrick’s beloved voucher scheme would divert taxpayer money from public education to cover all or part of a student’s tuition at a private or religious school, with little or no accountability to the people whose money is being spent. Aycock, on the other hand, understands the urgent need to invest in the state’s public schools and their five million students, 60 percent of them economically disadvantaged. He’s also aware, we’re sure, that the number of low-income students is growing at twice the rate of the overall student population….

“The voucher issue distracts from the fact that public schools, whatever their problems, are the backbone of every Texas community. They require attention and investment.

Aycock’s proposal would add $800 million to the $2.2 billion the House already had allocated to public schools. In the Senate, Patrick and his voucher cohorts, including state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, have proposed about $1.8 billion less for public education than the House. Patrick also is pushing hard for tax cuts worth about $4.6 billion.”

Taylor, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is sponsoring legislation that would create a $100 million private-school tuition program to help lower-income students pay for private or religious schools. Patrick told the Education Committee last week that the legislation would give approximately 10,000 students an opportunity to escape failing schools, primarily urban schools. Funding would come through donations from businesses, which in turn would receive tax credits.”

“Since the House and Senate are so far apart on the issues, they probably won’t be addressed in depth until a special session this summer. When that happens, we urge lawmakers to look to the man from Killeen for direction and not the man pushing vouchers.”

Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, the chair of the Public Education Committee, declared that the House would allocate $3 billion to public schools. In the past, the legislature has waited for the courts to order them to increase funding.

Jimmie Don Aycock is a Republican from Killeen. He is a hero to more than 5 million public school children in the great state of Texas. I humbly add him to the honor roll of this blog.

“The announcement also could signal a major fight with the Texas Senate, where budget writers have decided they don’t want to spend nearly as much on public schools.

“Texas still is battling a 2011 lawsuit filed by more than 600 school districts — including those in Austin, Pflugerville and Hutto — after state lawmakers made deep cuts to public education to balance a budget shortfall.

“Travis County state District Court Judge John Dietz — who presided over a similar challenge a decade ago — sided with districts yet again last August, saying the school finance system was inadequate, inefficient and imposed an illegal statewide property tax.

“Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the ruling directly to the state Supreme Court, which announced in late January it would hear the state’s appeal. But a ruling is not expected before the end of the 140-day session, leaving it up to lawmakers to decide what to do with school finance in the meantime.

“Aycock said Wednesday that an informal group of House lawmakers that had been meeting before and during this year’s legislative session, which began in January, first thought that they would wait until the high court rules, but have since had a change of heart — and hope the Texas Senate goes along.

“The Central Texas lawmaker said the decision came down to a fundamental question of “Do you try to do what’s right for children in the state of Texas or do you try to outguess the lawyers?”

A group of activist parents have turned the tide against high-stakes testing in Texas. They organized, informed themselves, informed others, and button-holed their state legislators about the overuse and misuse of testing in Texas’s public schools. Because of their activities and their persistence, they persuaded the legislators to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate. They are continuing their campaign by exposing the cost and continued overuse of standardized testing.

 

The group is called TAMSA, or Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, but admirers often call them “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”

 

They created a powerpoint to explain their concerns.

 

The powerpoint can be seen here. Watch it and consider doing the same thing in your state. If we organize and mobilize like TAMSA, we can turn around legislatures across the nation.

This resolution should be a model for the AFT and the NEA and for their affiliates. Teachers do not oppose testing; they oppose the misuse of testing. Teachers do not oppose accountability; they oppose accountability that is contrary to research and experience, whose purpose is not to improve instruction but to punish teachers for low scores.

The Rochester (NY) Teachers Association adopted the following resolution, unanimously:

RESOLUTION OF RTA REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY

WHEREAS, the volume of mandated summative standardized testing to which students are subjected in the Rochester City School District (“RCSD”) has increased many times over in recent years, and

WHEREAS, a very large amount of learning time is lost through the administration of such tests, while the results of such tests cannot be used for diagnostics or remediation or other educational purposes, and

WHEREAS, such testing generates results that are used for high-stakes decision-making regarding both students (e.g., grade promotion and graduation) and their teachers (e.g., evaluation scores, tenure, retention), and

WHEREAS, the attachment of high stakes to test results necessarily makes such tests the focus of classes in schools, and

WHEREAS, such tests fail to measure the most important qualities schools should seek to develop in students, such as relationship, character, ethical development, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, insight, and collaboration, amongst others, and

WHEREAS, as a result, many students who in fact develop these valued but unmeasured qualities, but who have extreme difficulty with standardized and other paper-and-pencil tests, experience these tests as stressful to the point of abuse, and

WHEREAS, the increasing focus on such testing thus causes severe distortions of schooling, both inflicting trauma on many students and changing schools into test-prep factories that prepare students for little but further testing and lives of resigned obedience, and

WHEREAS, the commitment of substantial resources to testing and evaluation diverts those same resources from the educational needs of students, including the arts, music, other non-tested subjects, the challenges of special needs students and English language learners, moral and ethical development, social and emotional development, internships, practical and workplace skills, project-based, authentic learning opportunities, attention to contemporary cultural and social concerns, deep exploration of subject matters, and many others, and

WHEREAS, such commitment of resources also diverts resources from the professional development needs of teachers, who wish to align their skills to the real needs of students, and

WHEREAS, parents and guardians frequently express dismay that students are subjected to so much testing, and they express confusion about the rights and obligations of children and families
with respect to such testing, as well as about the rationales for the various tests, and

WHEREAS, parents, students, families, teachers, and some districts throughout the state have expressed forceful opposition to the current testing regime, and

WHEREAS, the Rochester Teachers Association (“RTA”) wishes to clarify its stance on the various issues involved with the current testing regime,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT
RESOLVED, that the Rochester Teachers Association declares its opposition to the use of state- or federal-mandated standardized tests for the purposes of making grade promotion, graduation, or other high-stakes decisions regarding students or teachers, and

RESOLVED, that RTA supports the right of parents and guardians to choose to absent their children from any or all state- or federal-mandated testing, and supports the right of teachers to discuss freely with parents and guardians their rights and responsibilities with respect to such testing, all without any negative consequences from RCSD, and

RESOLVED, that RTA will, to the best of its ability, support and protect members and others who may suffer any negative consequences as a result of speaking about their views of such testing or about the rights and obligations of parents and guardians with respect to such testing, and

RESOLVED, that RTA calls upon the RCSD Board of Education to direct RCSD administration to provide parents and guardians, in a timely manner, with an explanation of the rationale, intended use, and costs associated with any state- or federal-mandated tests intended to be administered to students, and to provide an explanation, in a timely manner, of the steps parents and guardians would need to take should they choose to absent their children from such testing, and

RESOLVED, that RTA calls upon the RCSD Board of Education to make a determination as to whether such testing operates in the best interests of RCSD students, and, if they conclude that it does not, to give serious consideration to deciding not to administer any or all such tests, in consultation and alliance with other districts throughout Monroe County and the State of New York, and

RESOLVED, that RTA declares its support for the professional freedom of teachers to design, administer, score and use such testing as they deem necessary or appropriate for students in their classes, in their sole professional judgment, and

RESOLVED, that RTA appoint an Ad Hoc Committee to develop proposals for new, research-based, educationally sound measures to be used for accountability purposes, that will support, rather than undermine, the RCSD’s educational mission, and that such committee shall be free to work independently or in collaboration with RCSD to such ends, and

RESOLVED, that RTA, through its officers and staff, communicate these resolutions to anyone to whom they deem it fit and proper.

Adopted unanimously on March 17, 2015 by RTA Representative Assembly

George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, was elected Texas Land Commissioner last fall, starting his political career as the third generation of the family. He spoke at a school choice rally in January and said that “a majority of our students are trapped in underperforming schools.”

Charles Johnson of the Pastors for Texas Children asked Politifact to check the facts. They did and said young Bush was wrong.

Apparently he assumed that Texas needed a waiver from NCLB because very few schools had 100% proficiency. He didn’t know that every other state had the same problem. By NCLB metrics, almost every public school is a failing school.

I love Texas. I love it because it’s my home state but I also love it because so many people there are wonderful, sometimes wacky, often fascinating, and downright real. (I don’t love the politicians who think that greed is good and that no one has any obligation to help anyone else.) But my first thought when I recently skyped in to the dinner of the Friends of Texas Public Schools was that I miss the sound of Texas voices. Twangy, like me.

 

I love the Moms Against Drunk Testing (aka Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment). I love Community Voices for Education in Houston. I love the courage and persistence of the Texans fighting to save their public schools.

 

Another great Texas organization is Texas Kids Can’t Wait. Their goals are mine. They truly put children first. Lots of times people on our side can’t explain their goals clearly. This is what Texas Kids advises friends to do as they reach out to their legislators:

 

1. Adequate and equitable funding for public schools, according to Judge Dietz’s ruling. They are not required to wait for the Supreme Court ruling.

2. An end to the draconian testing and assessment programs, which have taken the joy out of both teaching and learning and which are doing far more harm than good. Texas has been testing since the late 1970’s. If testing were the “cure” for low achievement or “gaps,” then the problems would have been solved long ago. It is truly insane to keep on doing something that so clearly does not work!

3. Let them know that charters are the gateway drugs for the end to public schools, and we need to stop them now. Evidence is piling up that charters do not perform better than public schools and, in fact, in many cases perform worse than the worse. Also let them know that we in Texas do not support vouchers for private schools or home schools. Those funds need to be allocated to the 5 million Texas children in public schools. Schools that focus on profit and not the needs of kids are not what we want.

Three points. Understandable goals. Thank you, Texas Kids Can’t Wait!

Here is their current issue: Stopping an ALEC-style corporate takeover of low-performing schools:

Texas Kids Can’t Wait

Dear Friends,

Another bill to facilitate the corporate take-over of public schools has been filled by Democratic Senator Royce West of Dallas.

Senate Bill 520, authored by Sen. Royce West, was filed, and it is one we must do everything we can to defeat.

It establishes the Texas Opportunity School District, which is exactly the same thing as last session’s proposed Texas Achievement School District and New Orleans’s Recovery School District. There is ZERO credible research that such a strategy works for any kid anywhere.

SB 520 would take out of school district local control all low-performing schools (that is, schools with high rates of poverty, as we all know) and turn them over to a charter school management company under the “supervision” of the Commissioner.

Local taxpayers have to continue paying for this great gift to charter companies; the buildings are turned over to the Charter companies; and the local taxpayers must maintain them. What a deal, huh? Yeah, for the charter companies. But a terrible thing to do for kids, families, neighborhoods, and communities.

High schools in urban areas will be the biggest losers of this proposed scheme since disproportionate numbers of high schools are on the low-performing list. But there would also be many middle schools and many elementary schools in the scheme as well.

See why we call the charter schools the gateway drug for school privatization? There will never be enough charter schools for the privatizers. And they want taxpayers to foot the bill for this nonsense at increasing rates since they are determined to cut and eliminate business taxes.

You can read the bill here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/…/84R/bill…/pdf/SB00520I.pdf…

Please contact Sen. West, plus your own representative and senator asap and let them know that we expect them to base policy on solid research and on what is best for kids.

We thank you for your continued support and activism on behalf of Texas children. We have come a long way in the past two and one-half years in making people more aware of the issues and providing them information about how they can make a difference. Stay involved. Share information with your friends and family. Stay in touch with your elected representatives, beginning with local school board members, but including state legislators, statewide office holders, and congressional representatives. Be prepared to vote in every election. Keep the kids at the center of the discussion.

Sincerely,

Bonnie and Linda

Texas Kids Can’t Wait
Twitter: @TxKidsCantWait
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/texaskidscantwait
Email: texaskidscantwait@gmail.com
Call us at either 254-855-0594 or 254-709-2912

Texas Kids Can’t Wait | Texas Kids Can’t Wait | Waco | TX | 76712

The Texas legislature has a set-aside for Teach for America. Way to go, TFA lobbyists!

But that’s not all. The two-year TFA turnover won’t be counted as teacher turnover:

TX HB 1060

A teacher who is employed by a school district through participation in a program that requires a two-year teaching commitment in an underserved area or low-income community and who leaves employment with the district after the two-year commitment is not considered for purposes of reporting teacher turnover information under Subsection (e)(3).

http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=HB1060

Kyle Henderson is Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Athens, Texas. In this article, he warns that religious schools should not seek or accept vouchers.

He writes:

 

“I have been a pastor for over 30 years. I have been the pastor of a 150-year-old Baptist church in East Texas for 18 years. We operate a distinctively Christian grade school averaging 75 students. Our students have thrived going on to high academic success. I know how tempting it could be to take voucher money. I know the burden on families that scrimp and save to send their kids to our school. I have bought lots of cookie dough, sponsored walk-a-thons and attended fundraisers. I also know the freedom of operating a school that is able to openly talk about Christ, a place where prayer is a part of each class, where sharing Christian testimony is encouraged and where chapel and worship are a regular part of the school.

 

“These government payouts seek to fill in for faith. They whisper from the shadows that they are the answer to the problems of funding a Christian school. God does not need vouchers.

 

“Vouchers and all its versions including “school choice options” rightly come with responsibilities and obligations to the government, but Jesus told us we cannot serve two masters. These vouchers are either a grab to control faith-based schools or an irresponsible, unaccountable disbursement of public funds. Either the government will start exerting control over faith-based schools, or they will send money to schools that do not have to meet any standards. The only viable choice for a faith-based school is to reject the funds.

 

“Faith is strong and alive in America because of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. In the places where this is not true, the church is an empty shell. Depending on the state for funds is a death sentence for free religion and vibrant faith….

 

“I prefer the system where those who love faith bear the cost of that faith. We don’t need vouchers to solve the problems of education in the state of Texas. We need legislators who are courageous enough to help public schools to thrive, to return full funding to Texas schools and even increase it. I am part of Pastors for Texas Children, because we are mobilizing all over the state to fight for children, fight for freedom of religion and against a private view of education that draws money away from already struggling schools.”

A few days ago, I posted about a proposal by powerful Republicans to “reform” public education with a grab-bag of failed policies that punish public schools and demoralize teachers while creating a flow of public dollars to the private sector.

 

In this article, the brilliant and persistent Sara Stevenson explains the details of the proposal. Stevenson, a member of the blog’s honor roll, is a librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin. She has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone I know. She believes in setting the record straight, and she believes in public education. That’s why this destructive proposal made her blood boil.

 

The bill could well have been written in ALEC’s corporate offices. It has everything on the corporate free-market wish list.

 

Stevenson writes:

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry
Taylor, R-Friendswood, delivered the terrible news last week: The
Senate education plan contains no financial help for school districts,
600 of which are already suing the state for inadequate and
inequitable funding. It offers no testing relief for students in
grades 3 through 8 who must sit for up to four hours at a stretch
taking multiple standardized tests.

 

Furthermore, their proposals are
merely warmed up, stale leftovers written by the American Legislative
Exchange Council, a corporation-funded group that emphasizes free
markets and limited government. Here’s a sample serving:

 

Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public schools.

A “parent trigger” law, which allows the majority of parents at
individual failing schools to petition for new management.

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.

Tying teacher performance to compensation.

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle
school students.

Creation of a statewide district to manage failing schools.

 

The most dispiriting part of this education plan is that it proposes
absolutely nothing that will help educators with the serious charge of
preparing our young citizens for their adult lives. Our schools are
terribly underfunded. After the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion in
education dollars in 2011, Texas ranked 49th among the fifty states in
per pupil spending. Today we are spending less money per student than
we did ten years ago. How can the Legislature’s continued starving of
school districts help us with the very real challenges we face?

 

Less state funding for schools translates into larger class sizes,
fewer teaching assistants and painful cuts to electives, arts, PE,
libraries and clinics. Texas educators are willing to work hard in
daunting circumstances, but the more our legislators insult us with
unoriginal, ineffective schemes as they deprive us of necessary
resources, the more those of us with choices will flee our beloved
profession. The best teachers will refuse to work in an environment in
which they cannot be successful. I give this lazy, irresponsible
education plan a big, fat zero.”

 

Never mind that not one of these proposals is new or that not one of them has been successful anywhere.

 

Ideologues don’t care about evidence. The goal is to dismantle public education, a fundamental, essential institution of our democracy. In doing so, they override local control and funnel taxpayers’ dollars to entrepreneurs and religious institutions. There is not a shred of evidence that any of their proposals will improve education.

 

These men are not conservatives. Conservatives conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up community institutions. These men are radicals and anarchists, destroying heedlessly, mindlessly, zealously, without regard for the damage they do to the lives of children, families, educators, and communities.

Texas Republican leaders in the state senate unveiled their ambitious plan to enact the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda for privatization of public education.

With the help of Texans for Education Reform and a battalion of highly paid lobbyists, the Republicans will promote charters, school choice, and accountability measures to stigmatize public schools.

Texas schools have high numbers of students who are poor and who are English language learners. The senate has no new funding measures, despite the fact that $5 billion was cut from school funding a few years ago.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a voucher advocate. “On Tuesday, he said “148,000 students, approximately, today, are trapped in 297 school campuses across our state that have been failing for more than two years.”

His agenda includes school choice and other items, including:

“Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public school school campuses each year based on their performance — something already done for districts;

A stronger “parent empowerment” law, often called “the parent trigger,” that would allow parents to petition for new management schools that have been failing for two years rather than five;

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses;

Making sure high school students can take more courses that count for college credit;

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle schoolers.”

The spokesman for teachers was critical:

““None of the proposals offered by Sen. Taylor and the lieutenant governor would give teachers and students the time and resources they need to improve teaching and learning,” said Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria. “The Taylor-Patrick agenda fails to meet the needs of five million public school students whose schools have been inadequately funded by the very legislators who are eager to declare schools a failure based on standardized test scores.”

The Taylor-Patrick agenda is a grab-bag of failed ideas cribbed from the ALEC play book. None of them has been beneficial to students or successful anywhere.

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