Archives for category: Texas

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the North Texas School Boards Association by Zoom. Right now, Texas is ground zero for the charter industry. This is astonishing because the public schools in Texas far outperform the charter schools. The charter school lobby markets themselves as “saviors” of children, but they are far more likely to fail than public schools. This is a summary of what I told my friends in Texas:

I am a graduate of the Houston public schools. My father, who grew up in Savannah, never finished high school; my mother, who was born in Bessarabia, was very proud of her high school diploma from the Houston public schools.

I believe that all of us, whether or not we have children, whether or not we have children in public school, have a civic obligation to support public schools, just as we must support other public services, like police, firefighting, public roads, public parks, and public libraries. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, and no investment is more precious than investing in the education of our children. They are our future. 

Texas, like every other state, guarantees a free public education to everyone. The clause in the state constitution says:

A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

As constitutional scholar Derek Black shows in his book Schoolhouse Burning, the founding fathers of this nation wanted every state to provide free public education. They didn’t have it in their own time, but they saw it as essential to the future of the nation. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, the Founders said that any territory that wanted to become a state had to set aside one lot in each town for a tax-supported public school. Not a private academy supported by tax funds, but a tax-supported public school.

The leadership of Texas doesn’t care about the state constitution. Every time the legislature is in session, someone offers a bill to send public funds to religious schools, which are not public schools. Thus far, a coalition of urban Democrats and rural Republicans and the dedicated leadership of Pastors for Texas Children has defeated vouchers.

The Republicans who control the state have substituted charters for vouchers in their eagerness to provide alternatives to the right guaranteed by the state constitution. And they have not given up on vouchers.

Texas now has more than 800 charter schools. These are schools under private management, paid for with tax dollars. Contrary to their marketing strategy, they are not public schools. Some of those charters are part of big corporations, like KIPP or IDEA. Some are nonprofit schools that are managed by for-profit corporations. The GOP leadership wants more of them, even though the existing public schools are underfunded and have not recovered from a devastating budget cut of more than $5 billion in 2011.

When the idea of charter schools first emerged in the early 1990s, I was enthusiastic about their promise. I was in Washington, DC, working as Assistant Secretary of Education for Research in the first Bush administration. We heard from their sponsors that charter schools would be more innovative, would cost less than public schools because of their lack of bureaucracy, would be more successful, and would be more accountable than public schools because they were free of most regulations. 

Three decades later, this is what have we learned: 

   a). Charter schools are not more innovative than public schools. The only innovation associated with charters is harsh disciplinary practices called “No excuses,” where children are punished for minor infractions of strict rules. The largest charter chain in Chicago, the Noble Network, recently announced that it was getting rid of “no excuses” because it is a racist policy, meant to force black children to adopt white middle-class values.  

    b) Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools. In most states, the charter associations fight any effort to impose accountability or transparency. They don’t want to be audited by independent auditors. The only time they are accountable is when they close their doors because of low enrollment or abject academic failure. 

    c) Charter schools do not cost less than public schools. They typically demand the same public funding as public schools, even though the public schools pick up some of their costs, like transportation, and even though they have fewer high-need students than public schools. In some states, like Texas, charter schools get more public money than public schools.

    d) Charter schools are less effective than public schools. Those that have high test scores choose their students and families carefully and push out those they don’t want. On average they don’t outperform public schools, and they spend more money on administration than public schools. In some states, like Ohio, the majority of charter schools are rated D or F. 

Charters are unstable. They open and close like day lilies. Sometimes in mid-semester, leaving their students stranded.

The worst charter schools are the virtual schools. 

The state pays the cybercharters full tuition to provide nothing more than a computer, a remote teacher, and some textbooks. They charge double or triple their actual costs.

Virtual charter schools have high attrition rates, low graduation rates, and low test scores.

There have been huge scandals associated with virtual charter schools.

In Ohio, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow collected close to a billion dollars over 18 years. It was started by a businessman, who made generous contributions to political leaders. It had one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation. In 2017, ECOT was audited by the state and found to have collected tuition for phantom students. Rather than pay the state $80 million, ECOT declared bankruptcy in 2018. No one was fined, no one went to prison, no one was held accountable.

The biggest scandal in charter history was the A3 virtual charter chain. It had a massive scheme to enroll fake students. Eleven people were indicted. Eventualy, the leaders of A3 agreed to repay the state $215 million.

The largest of the virtual charters is K12 Inc; it is registered on NY Stock Exchange. Its results are familiar: high attrition, low test scores, low graduation rates. Their top executives are paid millions of dollars each. K12 is are operating in dozens of states.

Poor academic performance is not punished; financial fraud is not punished. There is no accountability. 

IDEA in Texas is in a class of its own when it comes to luxuries. They get hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars, but they decided they needed to lease a private jet for their executives. When the story got into the newspapers, they dropped that idea. The media also reported that IDEA bought season tickets for special seating at San Antonio Spurs games. When the CEO decided to retire, he received a $1 million golden parachute. How many school superintendents do you know who got such a generous going-away present?

Charter schools claim that they “save poor kids from failing schools.” 

That’s not true. There are currently some 356,000 students in charter schools in Texas. Three-quarters of them are enrolled in charter schools in A or B school districts. The charter school students are being drawn away from successful schools in successful districts.

The charter lobby claims that there are long waiting lists. Don’t believe it. The so-called wait lists are manufactured. They are never audited. In Los Angeles, at least 80% of the existing charters have empty seats, yet still the lobbyists talk about wait lists. In New York City, charters buy advertising on city buses. When you have a waiting list, you don’t buy advertising.

The charter industry in Texas has a number of charter expansions already approved and expects to grow by 50,000 students every year. Unless the legislature plans to increase spending on education, charter growth will mean budget cuts for public schools. Charters in Texas currently divert $3 billion a year from public schools. Since they started, they have diverted more than $20 billion that should have gone to the state’s public schools. 

Charter schools in Texas are not more successful than public schools. Texas researcher William Gumbert reported that 86% of public school districts are rated either A or B by the state, compared to 58.6% of charter schools. Only 2.6% of public school districts were rated D or F, compared to 17.7% of charter schools.  

Texas Public Radio reported that graduation rates at charter schools were 30 points lower than the rates at public high schools. 

Two economists—Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer—studied the outcomes of charter schools in Texas. They concluded that charter schools have “no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.”

William Gumbert, an independent analyst in Texas, has calculated that graduates of charter schools enter college less well prepared and are less likely to perform well in college, compared to students who went to public schools. He reported that the 2019 state ratings showed nearly 40% of charters approved by the state have been closed. 

The charters claim that they can close historic achievement gaps between children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. This is not true. According to careful research by analyst Gumbert, public schools do a better job of narrowing the achievement gaps between black and white students and between Hispanic and white students than charters in the same districts. 

Again, using state records, Gumbert found that graduates of public schools were more successful in college than graduates of charter schools. Public school graduates were more likely to have a higher grade-point average in freshman year than charter school graduates. First-year grade-point average has been shown to predict college graduation. 

Now the charter industry is lobbying for a vast expansion in Texas. They don’t want to have to deal with elected school boards or other elected officials. Democracy is a nuisance, an obstacle. So they are promoting SB 28, which would remove any elected school boards or elected municipal officials from the charter approval process. The state board of education could veto a charter application only with a supermajority. Only one appointed state official—the State Commissioner, appointed by the Governor– would decide whether charters may invade your district, recruit the students they want and locate the charter school wherever they want. That is a major blow to local control of schools. 

Why are state officials in Texas, why is the Legislature, opposed to local control of schools?

After three decades of experience, we have learned about the policies and practices of charter corporations.

First, many charter schools are run by non-educators. They see a business opportunity and they compete for market share. 

Second, they market charter schools by making extravagant claims. They promise that their students will be successful in school and will go to college even before they open their doors. As we have seen, this is usually false.

Third, the few that get high test scores do so by cherry-picking their students or by setting the standards so high that only high-scoring students choose to enroll. BASIS is an example of that. Students have to pass a certain number of AP exams to graduate, so average students need not apply. In Arizona, where most of the state’s students are Hispanic or Native American, the BASIS schools enroll mostly white and Asian students.

Fourth, some charter schools raise test scores by pushing out students who get low scores. That means excluding students with disabilities and students who don’t speak or read English. It also means counseling out or finding creative ways to discourage the kids who are discipline problems or the kids who perform poorly on tests. The most successful charter chain in NYC accepts kids by lottery in kindergarten. Then they begin weeding out those they don’t want, and after third grade, no new students are accepted. By senior year, most of the students who started in K or first grade have disappeared

Fifth, charter schools typically hire young and inexperienced teachers who cost less than older experienced teachers. The turnover is high—sometimes as much as half the staff leaves every year and is replaced by newcomers to teaching. 

Sixth, the true secret of charter expansion is the money behind them. They are supported by a long list of billionaires who want to eliminate public schools. They mock our community schools as “government schools,” but they might as well mock our community police officers as “government security agents.” Our community public schools belong to “we, the people.” We pay for them with our taxes. They reflect our community history. They have the trophies that our parents, our cousins, our aunts and uncles won at football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, chess, and debate tournaments. They are audited and overseen by our neighbors. We elect the school board, and if we don’t agree with their decisions, we elect another one. 

Don’t give your public dollars to entrepreneurs and corporations to educate your children. 

Don’t replace your public schools with a free market where schools compete for customers. Markets produce winners and losers, not equality of educational opportunity. Use your tax dollars to make your public schools the best they can be for all the children.

Whatever your political views are, these schools belong to you, not to Wall Street or libertarian billionaires or opportunists. Tell your legislators to support your public schools. 

School choice means that the schools choose.

Public schools must take everyone. 

School choice is a hoax.

Don’t fund failure.

At a time when there are so many divisions in our society, we need our public schools to teach appreciation for our common heritage as Americans and as Texans.

I especially appeal to those with conservative values: Conservative conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up traditional institutions. People who want to blow up community institutions are anarchists, not conservatives.

Preserve and improve your community public schools for future generations. 

The Texas Senate Education Committee bowed to the wishes of the powerful charter lobby and granted sole power to the State Commissioner (appointed by the Governor) to approve charter schools. His decisions can be vetoed only by a supermajority of the State Board of Education.

The State Commissioner of Education is Mike Morath. He is not an educator. He is a software executive who served on the Dallas school board and advocated for charter schools.

Local elected authorities—including mayors and school boards—are prohibited from blocking a charter school that wants to open in its jurisdiction. Charters can locate wherever they choose without regard to the views of local communities that want to protect their own public schools from rapacious charters.

Right now, Texas is being overrun by corporate charter chains aiming to grab market share. This bill will help them by canceling democracy and the will of the people.

This is the bill that passed the committee.

CSSB 28 (Bettencourt), as substituted, increases the threshold – from a majority to a supermajority – required for a State Board of Education veto of a charter awarded by the commissioner and defines reasons why the SBOE may veto a charter. It also prohibits a local governmental entity from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, order, regulation, resolution, rule, or policy or taking action that prohibits an open-enrollment charter school from operating a public school campus, educational support facility, or administrative office in its jurisdiction.

The charter industry is turning its lobbyists loose in Texas. Despite the large number of charters in the state (more than 800), the lobbyists want more. More. More. $$$. The Legislature is now debating changes in state law to remove obstacles to charter entrepreneurs and corporations that want more locations. Texas doesn’t need more charters: Charters in Texas are regularly outperformed by public schools.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Companion bills filed in the Texas House and Senate, seeking to do away with hurdles facing charter schools that try to open or expand, have bipartisan support but will move the sharp debate over their rapid growth into the legislative arena.

Supporters of Senate Bill 28, called the Charter School Equity Act, say it would level the playing field for new and existing charter schools across the state by preventing local governments from treating them differently from traditional public schools and by relaxing state controls.Advocates for traditional public school districts say the playing field is tilted in favor of charter schools and the way to level it would require more state oversight and local input, not less.

Among other changes, Senate Bill 28 and its accompanying House Bill 3279 would require open-enrollment charter schools to be considered public school districts for the purposes of “zoning, permitting, (subdivision) plat approvals, fees or other assessments, construction or site development work, code compliance, development” and any other type of local government approval.

This would reduce the “red tape” that charter schools face from local authorities after being approved to operate by state officials, the bills’ sponsors say.

It also would make it impossible for cities to act in ways that were advocated by the superintendents of the two largest school districts in Bexar County in 2018, when they suggested San Antonio could use its zoning authority to geographically restrict charter expansion to prevent financial damage to traditional public schools.

“We think charter schools, and open-enrollment charter schools, are good for the state of Texas. That’s the bottom line here,” said the Senate bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, in a recent online news conference. “We are simply putting charter schools on the equity they should have. No city should treat charter schools differently than how they treat somebody else…”

“Right now communities have almost no say on whether a charter school comes in or not,” said Kevin Brown, executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Brown, who led Alamo Heights ISD as superintendent for 10 years, said leveling the playing field should include requiring charter schools to seek voter approval for funding their expansion and to elect their boards.“Anytime a charter school is being considered in a local community, that local community should have a large amount of input,” Brown said. “And right now they just don’t have that. So I think there should be much more transparency at the local level.”If anything, the SBOE should have more input, not less, on any expansion that would result in public school districts sharing taxpayer funds to educate students, Brown added.

Woods, the Northside ISD superintendent, said the bills, in their current form, ignore the public process that all public school districts must go through to fund and build a new campus. Planning takes years, and voters decide if they want to fund it, Woods said. School districts then have to work with cities and counties to assess the impact of construction in certain areas and get the project approved.

“We elect school board members, city council members and county judges to make decisions locally because they know the community,” Woods said. “And this (legislation) is just another example, in a long line of examples, where local control seems not to be prioritized in the Texas Legislature.”

Our wonderful allies, Pastors for Texas Children, send us wonderful news: Friends of public education raised their voices, stood together, and stopped new voucher legislation!

 Vouchers Blocked Again!
Last week, we celebrated the victory of your tireless advocacy for public education funding for our children when we announced Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to extend “hold harmless.” Today, we have another piece of good news: 

The voucher proposal in this session’s House Bill 3 has been removed. 

In a meeting earlier today with Pastors for Texas Children and Raise Your Hand Texas, HB 3 author Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) indicated that all education issues, including vouchers, are being taken out of the bill. This change will be reflected in a committee substitute later this week. We thank Chairman Burrows and Gov. Abbott for their wisdom in removing the voucher from the bill.

PTC Executive Director Rev. Charles Johnson gives “joyous testimony to the love and support Texans have for their neighborhood and community public schools – and firm opposition to the privatization of them through vouchers.”  

“That we have to keep delivering that memo to the Governor and a third of the Legislature is outrageous and unacceptable,” he says.  

Year after year, Pastors for Texas Children will continue to deliver that message, with your help.  

In case you missed it, HB3 is a pandemic response bill that deals with many issues, among them school vouchers. Here is the language of the voucher: If a district of residence fails to compensate the off-campus instructional program before the 46th day after the date of receiving a bill, the commissioner of education shall reimburse the off-campus instructional program from funding deducted from the district. 

According to this bill, the commissioner of education would get to decide which programs qualify for reimbursement from the state, which would be “deducted from the district” directly.  

A voucher bill has been filed in every Texas Legislature since 1995, so we were not surprised, nor were we unprepared. The people of Texas do not want vouchers taking money from their public schools. Furthermore, we will remain vigilant to block any future voucher proposals. 

We are thankful that this dangerous proposition was short-lived, and especially thankful for the public education advocacy community, which includes each of you, for making sure of that. 

Last week, we were honored to join dedicated public education advocates in a webinar with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. We love the different perspectives given by all the panelists, covering this issue thoroughly from all angles. The webinar is called “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them.” You can view it here to brush up on your talking points, as they will continue to be relevant. 
PO Box 471155, Fort Worth, Texas, 76147

One of our greatest allies for public schools in the nation is the remarkable Pastors for Texas Children. They are active every day in Texas, urging the public to support and fund their public schools. Their leadership has helped to spur similar organizations in other states where public schools need help and where privatizers are making a play for public funds.

Here is their latest appeal for funding the public schools of Texas, attended by five million students:

After last week’s freeze, the Texas Legislature is back to work at the Capitol. Our focus on funding public schools fully and fairly is more important than ever.  As you know, our Texas Constitution says in Article 7, Section 1:  “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

 Here are three ways we can fulfill our constitutional obligation:

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

1. Federal COVID Relief Dollars
Last spring, Texas received $1.3 billion in federal stimulus funding earmarked to public education. The money was intended to equip schools for education during a pandemic, including PPE, technology, internet capabilities, and updating facilities. That package was not ever distributed to the local school districts, but was used to fill state budget holes.  

In December 2020, the state received the next federal relief package of $5.5 billion for public education purposes, which has not yet been distributed to school districts.  

We are asking our state leaders to release this and any future stimulus money for its intended purpose: to enable local districts to operate and educate safely without having to dip into reserves. Our friends at Raise Your Hand Texas have developed a helpful fact sheet about the federal stimulus funding. You can read that here, along with other resources.

Read the Pastors’ legislative priorities here:

This story has justifiably gotten a lot of national attention. Tim Boyd, the mayor of Colorado City, Texas, resigned after posting the following message on his Facebook page. He has a philosophy of sink or swim. That Government has no responsibility to help you when the power goes out and the temperature goes below freezing. Surviving is your problem.

That worldview sounds like it derives from the late Rush Limbaugh. It is certainly not consonant with the core values embedded in the Holy Bible. I’m guessing ex-Mayor Boyd considers himself a Christian. From what I know of the words of Jesus, he taught love and kindness for one’s neighbors, not indifference.

For non-Christians, there is another source for believing that government has an obligation to help its citizens: the United States Constitution, which begins: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

”Providing for the general welfare” is a commitment that society makes to its citizens.

And then there’s the basic fact that the government in most parts of this country does control the power grid and the water supply. Texans should rightly hold their state government responsible for the lack of both. Individuals and families can burn wood in their fireplaces, if they have one, and they can draw water from a well, but most people don’t have a well. People in civilized societies pay taxes so the government will protect them, build roads, supply electrical power and potable water, provide free public education, and do those things that individuals can’t do for themselves.

When their lives are at risk because of a natural disaster, they rightly turn to government for help. At times of overwhelming crisis, only government has the resources and personnel (think National Guard) to save lives.

This is what ex-Mayor Boyd wrote, along with his sort-of apology:

ORIGINAL FACEBOOK MESSAGE (since deleted):

Let me hurt some feelings while I have a minute!!

No one owes you are (sic) your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout! If you don’t have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe. If you have no water you deal without and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family. If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your (sic) lazy is direct result of your raising! Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish (sic). Folks God has given us the tools to support ourselves in times like this. This is sadly a product of socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts. Am I sorry that you have been dealing without electricity and water; yes! But I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves! We have lost sight of those in need and those that take advantage of the system and meshed them in to one group!! Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!

Bottom line – DONT (sic) A PART OF PROBLEM, BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION!!

APOLOGY

All, I have set back and watched all this escalating and have tried to keep my mouth shut! I won’t deny for one minute what I said in my post this morning. Believe me when I say that many of the things I said were taken out of context and some of which were said without putting much thought in to it. I would never want to hurt the elderly or anyone that is in true need of help to be left to fend for themselves. I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout. I apologize for the wording and some of the phrases that were used! I had already turned in my resignation and had not signed up to run for mayor again on the deadline that was February 12th! I spoke some of this out of the anger that the city and county was catching for situations which were out of their control. Please understand if I had it to do over again I would have just kept my words to myself and if I did say them I would have used better wording and been more descriptive.

The anger and harassment you have caused my wife and family is so undeserved….my wife was laid off of her job based off the association people gave to her and the business she worked for. She’s a very good person and was only defending me! But her to have to get fired from her job over things I said out of context is so horrible. I admit, there are things that are said all the time that I don’t agree with; but I would never harass you or your family to the point that they would lose there livelihood such as a form of income.

I ask that you each understand I never meant to speak for the city of Colorado City or Mitchell county! I was speaking as a citizen as I am NOT THE MAYOR anymore. I apologize for the wording and ask that you please not harass myself or my family anymore!

Threatening our lives with comments and messages is a horrible thing to have to wonder about. I won’t share any of those messages from those names as I feel they know who they are and hope after they see this they will retract the hateful things they have said!

Thank you

Tim Boyd(citizen)

William Gumbert has been reviewing the rapid expansion of charter schools in Texas with concern. In previous posts, he has demonstrated that they are likely to underperform the public schools with which they compete. And, worse, they take funding away from the districts in which they are located. Texas is now being flooded by corporate charter chains, replacing community-based public schools. His attached report explains why community-based schools and school districts deserve the support of all Texans.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and a bevy of rightwing commentators blamed wind turbines, which supply 10% of the state’s energy, and “the Green New Deal, which doesn’t exist, for the failure of the state’s power supply. He learned “the Big Lie” from his hero Trump.

As millions of people across Texas struggled to stay warm Tuesday amid massive cold-weather power outages, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed his ire at one particular failure in the state’s independent energy grid: frozen wind turbines.


“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said to host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”


The governor’s arguments were contradicted by his own energy department, which outlined how most of Texas’s energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines, The Washington Post’s Will Englund reported. But Abbott’s debunked claims were echoed by other conservatives this week who have repeatedly blamed clean energy sources for the outages crippling the southern U.S.


[The Texas grid got crushed because its operators didn’t see the need to prepare for cold weather]


In fact, typically mild winters and a lack of state regulations in Texas combined to leave electricity providers unprepared for the extreme cold that has suddenly hit the state, The Post reported. Nearly every source of energy — from wind turbines to natural gas to nuclear power — have failed to some degree following a harsh storm that covered the region with thick layers of snow and ice.
Although renewable energy sources did partially fail, they only contributed to 13 percent of the power outages, while providing about a quarter of the state’s energy in winter. Thermal sources, including coal, gas and nuclear, lost almost twice as many gigawatts of power because of the cold, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electric grid operator.

Critics have also noted that wind turbines can operate in climates as cold as Greenland if they’re properly prepared for the weather.


Despite the much larger dip in energy from fossil fuels, Republican politicians have seized on the outages to attack the Green New Deal and Democrats’ push to address climate change by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.


In his Fox News interview, Abbott did not address the fact that most of the state’s power comes from fossil fuels and that ERCOT had planned to produce far more power from natural gas than became available as the cold set in, contributing a stunning deficit amid the freezing weather. On Tuesday, Abbott called for a state investigation into ERCOT’s failings, saying the agency had been “anything but reliable” following the winter storm.


Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
The governor was not the only prominent Texas Republican to blame clean energy for the historic power outages. After Fox News host Tucker Carlson inaccurately told viewers that the state’s power grid had become “totally reliant on windmills,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who served as energy secretary under President Donald Trump, joined Carlson in railing against the Green New Deal, which has not been enacted in Texas or nationally.


“If this Green New Deal goes forward the way that the Biden administration appears to want it to, then we’ll have more events like we’ve had in Texas all across the country,” Perry said in another Fox News segment.


Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) shared a detailed accounting on Twitter of how the state’s power grid failed, noted the roles that natural gas and nuclear power played — but also used the moment to attack wind turbines on Tuesday.


“Bottom line: Thank God for baseload energy made up of fossil fuels,” Crenshaw tweeted. “Had our grid been more reliant on the wind turbines that froze, the outages would have been much worse.”


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has been a strong proponent of the Green New Deal proposal, slammed Texas Republicans early Wednesday.
“The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal,” she said in a tweet.


Texas Democrats also criticized Abbott in a statement Monday, calling out Republican leaders for allowing the power to go out in the state that produces the most energy in the nation.
“If we had a governor open to alternative sources of energy, Texas might be in a situation in which we have energy reserves to efficiently power our state, instead of the reckless leadership we have witnessed time and time again from Greg Abbott,” the Texas Democrats said.


Wind turbines are working very well in far colder climates. Abbott probably outsourced the state’s energy needs to profit-seeking entrepreneurs who cut corners to make more money.

In another article in the Washington Post, the blame is placed where it belongs: on short-sighted politicians who didn’t plan for a worst-case scenarios.

When it gets really cold, it can be hard to produce electricity, as customers in Texas and neighboring states are finding out. But it’s not impossible. Operators in Alaska, Canada, Maine, Norway and Siberia do it all the time.


What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.


It’s a “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” said Matt Breidert, a portfolio manager at a firm called Ecofin.


And yet the temporary train wreck of that market Monday and Tuesday has seen the wholesale price of electricity in Houston go from $22 a megawatt-hour to about $9,000. Meanwhile, 4 million Texas households have been without power.


One utility company, Griddy, which sells power at wholesale rates to retail customers without locking in a price in advance, told its patrons Tuesday to find another provider before they get socked with tremendous bills.


The widespread failure in Texas and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma and Louisiana in the face of a winter cold snap shines a light on what some see as the derelict state of America’s power infrastructure, a mirror reflection of the chaos that struck California last summer.


Edward Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the disinvestment in electricity production reminds him of the last years of the Soviet Union, or of the oil sector today in Venezuela.
“They hate it when I say that,” he said.

David Berliner and Sharon Nichols wrote this opinion article for the San Antonio Express-News. The headline: “STAAR Outcome Obvious; Test Is a Waste of $90 Million.” Nichols is a professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio and Berliner is an emeritus professor at Arizona State University.

They write:

Published in the San-Antonio Express-News, Wednesday 2/3/2021

STOP THE STAAR TESTING—TEXAS’S STANDARDIZED ACHIEVEMENT TEST

Sharon L. Nichols is professor and chair of the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas, San Antonio. David C. Berliner is Regents’ Professor Emeritus at the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University.

The Texas Education Agency is submitting a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education seeking to pause the A-F school grading process this year. This is good. Continuing the charade of grading schools on the social-class makeup of their students has always been unethical. That is because “who” attends the schools is the overwhelming determinant of the standardized test scores on which school grades are based. So, calling schools “A” or “D, “good” or “bad,” without visiting schools and evaluating staff and the quality of instruction that kids get is unintelligible—if not simply mean. 

However, according to the waiver notice put out by the TEA, we should still make students take the annual STAAR test this year because “it remains critical that parents, educators, and policymakers understand the impact of the pandemic on student learning.”

This is absurd. Let’s just admit kids have fallen behind in learning the standard curriculum. Most of us are sure that is the case. But we have no way of estimating what they might have learned from time at home: cooking, gardening, playing educational games, practicing instruments, tutoring siblings, reading on their own, etc. They weren’t all watching cartoons! 

It costs Texans $90 million to test students every year. Why would we want to spend $90 million of taxpayer money on an endeavor that will yield information Texas already has. Data from other states’ testing programs inform us that year-to-year school scores are correlated so high, that if state testing were to be suspended for one or two years, there would be hardly any change in what was learned about a schools’ performance and its relative rank among the state’s schools. Texas already has 2019 test scores. So, if you give the test this year, you will spend $90 million only to learn something already known. Surely such money could be used for some other educational needs. 

Furthermore, if you want to know how the students are doing vis-á-vis the desired school curriculum, ask a teacher. Studies show they can predict the rank order of their students on the state’s test amazingly well. 

Another important reason for not testing this year is that content coverage by students has been uneven. Some kids took to remote learning, some didn’t; some kids had an adequate computer and a reliable Wi-Fi signal, but some did not. Some had a parent at home working with them, some did not. Some grappled with COVID-19 directly having to cope with sick family members, some did not.

We know that depression rates skyrocketed over the past year, with three times as many Americans meeting criteria for depression during the pandemic. We have no idea how this has affected millions of school-aged children. So, if the Texas curriculum for, say, 5th grade mathematics or language arts was not taught fully, or not received by every child, the test is patently invalid. That is because the test designers assume all kids have had an equal chance at exposure to the content of a state’s required curriculum. 

If that assumption has clearly not been met, as in the 2019-2020 school year and now the 2020-2021 school year, the test scores obtained are prima facie uninterpretable. Furthermore, to use such a test for any consequential decision-making is in violation of the code of ethics of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. Consequential decisions made on the basis of those invalid tests are easily and rightfully challenged in court. STAAR data for 2021 are tainted. 

So, do we really want to spend $90 million dollars of our education budget on standardized achievement tests when it is clear students need new curriculum to discern facts from lies; when they need to deal with history and contemporary issues related to racism, sexism, social class differentiation, and climate change; or when they need to learn the rights and obligations of citizenship in our state and nation? Surely, in Texas, there are better ways to use $90 million dollars.