TEX. EDUCATION BILLS — SOME GOOD, SOME BAD
“Tex. Education Bills – Some Good, Some Bad”
by Donna Garner
It is that time again when the Texas Legislature is in session – 84th Legislative Session. The following are a few of the education bills that have been filed. Based upon my many years of experience as a teacher and as an activist, I have gone through a number of these education bills and have offered my opinions on them. The public needs to read the text of these bills very carefully before encouraging legislators to vote for or against them.
SERIOUSLY BAD BILL
Bill Number: SB 313
Caption: Relating to review and modification of the essential knowledge and skills of the required public school curriculum.
Author: Sen. Kel Seliger (R)
Sen. Seliger’s bill is not needed because the TEKS are on an ongoing, systematic schedule to be revised. The present English / Language Arts / Reading TEKS were adopted in May 2008, and the new textbooks (a.k.a., instructional materials – IM’s) based upon the 2008 TEKS standards have been out in the Texas schools for several years. This has given teachers time to see how teachable the 2008 ELAR/TEKS are before trying to revise them.
This year the ELAR/TEKS are set for revision, and the SBOE in an orderly manner is beginning the process of nominating members to the ELAR revision team.
The same process will occur with the other TEKS (adopted from 2008 to 2012). The next TEKS documents after ELAR set for revision will be Science, Social Studies, and Math. The decisions on the release of various IM’s is partially based upon legislative decisions that surround the use of the Permanent School Fund to pay for the IM’s even though the PSF has over $30 Billion dollars in its coffers – enough to pay for all Texas public school children’s IM’s in all four core subjects for many years to come.
It is important to allow the IM’s built upon these TEKS standards enough time to settle into the public schools before trying to revise the standards. The new Science TEKS were approved in the Spring of 2009 with the new Science IM’s arriving in the schools in the Fall of 2014. The new Social Studies TEKS were passed in the Spring of 2010, and the new Social Studies IM’s will be arriving in the Fall of 2015. The new Math TEKS were passed in the Spring of 2012 with the new Math IM’s arriving in Texas schools in the Fall of 2014.
What we do not want to happen is for Sen. Seliger’s bill to require the TEKS to be opened and changed “willy nilly.” The SBOE has a systematic plan for tweaking the TEKS, and we need to go through that process in each subject area.
Obviously, SBOE member Thomas Ratliff (working in conjunction with Sen. Seliger and others) is just dying to open up all the TEKS and turn them from Type #1 (traditional, knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level-specific, measurable) into Type #2 (subjective, constructivist, not fact-based but instead emphasizing opinions/beliefs/emotions and the social justice agenda).
Thomas Ratliff, as we all know, is a long-standing registered lobbyist for Microsoft and has a vested interest in making sure that his boss, Bill Gates, makes billions from the Type #2 Common Core Standards Initiative. Ratliff wants to force the Common Core Standards into every school in Texas. Raise Your Hand Texas, which is run by the Ratliff Clan and the Moses Clan, works closely with left-leaning legislators such as Seliger.
Bottom line: HB 313 is not needed and is an attempt to destroy our Type #1 TEKS that are the envy of most other states that are trapped in the Type #2 Common Core Standards. HB 313 needs to be killed in committee.
WELL-MEANING BILL THAT COULD HAVE BAD CONSEQUENCES IF PASSED
Bill Number: SB 276
Caption: Relating to state savings and government efficiency achieved through a taxpayer savings grant program administered by the comptroller of public accounts.
Author: Sen. Donna Campbell (R)
SB 276 would provide funding to students to pay for tuition at an accredited private school of the parent’s choice. The amount of the funding would be no greater than 60% of the current average per-student funding that the state gives to public schools for operations and maintenance.
I believe in school choice and that parents should have the right to decide which type of schooling best suits their child. The problem I have with school choice is that if all schools are shackled to the Type #2 philosophy of education through state and/or federal laws, then there will be no choice.
During my 33 years of classroom teaching, I have taught in the public, private, community college, and homeschooling environments. Some of my most fulfilling years were spent in private schools because we could decide on the discipline policies, the curriculum, and how we would handle students with learning difficulties.
Because the education lobby is so strong and well-financed, I am scared that at the last minute in a desperate move to get SB 276 passed at all costs, Texas legislators might require that private schools receiving those public dollars would have to comply with federal and state laws. If the feds and the state get their hooks into what is taught and tested in the private schools, that will destroy private schools.
Also, I am still looking for court precedent anywhere in the United States that clearly says private schools that take public dollars do not have to follow the Title I, IDEA (Special Education), and Section 504 federal mandates. As it stands now, private schools are independent and do not have to follow these laws. Private schools are free to work with students individually to help them develop personal responsibility, self-discipline, a strong work ethic, and self-control. The federal mandates set up a system that perpetuates co-dependent students who are labeled for life.
Bill Number: HB 205
Caption: Relating to the provision of human sexuality and family planning instruction in public schools.
Author: Rep. Jeff Leach (R)
This bill attempts to keep employees of Planned Parenthood and similar pro-abortion groups from providing human sexuality or family planning instruction or instructional materials for use in human sexuality or family planning instruction in Texas public schools.
Bill Number: HB 654
Caption: Relating to public school finance and the formation of school finance districts.
Author: Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R)
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock and his “school finance districts” bill would combine the tax bases of wealthier districts with poorer ones. This would glue Texas’ more than 1,000 regular school districts into 30 new school districts supposedly for “tax purposes only.” Rep. Aycock’s bill would require that per-pupil funding is within $300 of the statewide average.
Remember that Rep. Aycock’s daughter is Michelle Smith, who up until a couple of weeks ago, was a lobbyist with the Austin-based firm HillCo Partners. One of its clients is Raise Your Hand Texas (please see sources at bottom of page). In an article in the New York Times (May 2013), an incident involving Rep. Aycock was described in which he passed on to other legislators a communication received from his daughter’s lobbying client during an education debate.
After these lobbying connections were made public recently, Rep. Aycock announced on 1.30.15 that his daughter, Michelle Smith, was going to quit being an education lobbyist during this legislative term. However, she will still have those long-standing relationships with the HillCo lobbyists and with Raise Your Hand Texas. This means she and her lobbying buddies can still influence her father who is the chair of the House Education Committee.
I am definitely concerned about local schools being grouped in with other schools for tax purposes (or for any purposes). I think this would destroy the local school system as we know it, and I believe it is important for the locals to support their schools and take ownership of them. If locals “do not have any skin in the game,” I am afraid the local school as the center of the community would be lost.
Besides, if the locals do not control the taxes (and they are globbed together with other districts), will we citizens have any influence about the IM’s that are purchased by our local school districts? How much influence would local citizens have with a large “school finance district” if they wanted to voice their concerns over the purchase of nefarious IM’s such as CSCOPE, pro-Islam/anti-American curriculum materials, the new anti-American U. S. History course from The College Board, and/or other Common Core IM’s?
I believe Rep. Aycock’s HB 654 is a back-door way to take away local citizens’ control over elected school board members and give that control to a big conglomeration where local citizens’ concerns would have no power.
I also am concerned about the close lobbying associations that Rep. Aycock’s daughter has with Raise Your Hand Texas, with Bill Ratliff/Thomas Ratliff, with Bill Gates and Microsoft – all of whom stand to make millions from Common Core products.
SERIOUSLY BAD BILL
Bill Number: HB 429
Caption: Relating to the nonpartisan election of members to the State Board of Education; providing for a fee.
Author: Rep. Donna Howard (D)
Rep. Donna Howard (D), one of the most hard-left members in the Texas House, has tried to get a version of this same bill passed for many years. HB 429 would keep elected State Board of Education members from being placed on the ballot by party affiliation. It is important for the public to get to know the SBOE candidates as they campaign within their party slate and party platform because it allows the voters to better predict the way SBOE members would vote once placed on the Board. Because the SBOE makes important decisions that impact over 5,000,000 Texas public school children and the 9,317 public schools that educate them, the campaign positions taken by SBOE candidates is of utmost importance. The public deserves the right to know what those campaign positions are.
SERIOUSLY BAD BILL
Bill Number: HB 567
Caption: Relating to corporal punishment in public schools.
Author: Rep. Alma Allen (D)
This bill would forbid corporal punishment by any public school personnel. Because of the liberal mindset which has been allowed to permeate our society, the terms “corporal punishment” and “child abuse” have become synonymous. They certainly are not. When corporal punishment is administered after (1) making sure that all students and their parents receive a well-articulated set of disciplinary standards, (2) taking steps to ensure that students understand the consequences of inappropriate behavior, and (3) being consistent in the application of the disciplinary standards, then corporal punishment without emotional malice by the educator can serve to help the student pursue his/her education after first learning that submission to authority is essential to having a well-structured classroom. A student who is full of rebellion cannot learn her/his academics; and if allowed to continue in rebellion will not only destroy the atmosphere in the classroom but will destroy his/her chances for success in life.
SERIOUSLY BAD BILL
Bill Number: SB 74
Caption: Relating to placing the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.
Author: Sen. Rodney Ellis (D)
The purpose of Sunset Review in Texas is quite clear — (https://www.sunset.texas.gov/public/uploads/files/reports/Sunset%20in%20Texas%202013-3015.pdf).
Sunset Review exists to decide whether or not a state agency needs to exist. The Texas State Board of Education is not an agency; it is an elected body of volunteer citizens who serve without remuneration.
The functions of the SBOE require that it exist so that the citizens of Texas through the elected process can determine the type of people to put on the SBOE who will decide on the type of public schools Texas will have.
There is no question but that the SBOE needs to exist. On the other hand, the Texas Education Agency and other such state agencies are indeed state agencies that hire employees – not elect them. These state agencies should and do pass through the Sunset Review process.
QUESTIONABLE BILL – NEEDS REWORKING
Bill Number: HB 374
Caption: Relating to requiring State Board of Education approval to offer advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses in public high schools.
Author: Rep. Ron Simmons (R)
Several major problems exist with HB 374. It is unrealistic to require the SBOE to make sure all AP (Advanced Placement) and all IB (International Baccalaureate) courses align with the TEKS (Texas curriculum standards).
First of all, Texas does not have TEKS that would align with all of the many AP and IB course titles:
Here is the list of AP course titles: https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse
Here is the link to the IB programme: http://www.ibo.org/en/programmes/diploma-programme/curriculum/
Here is the list of TEKS course titles: http://tea.texas.gov/curriculum/teks/
Texas has TEKS that might align with some of the AP/IB course titles in the four foundational areas of ELAR, Social Studies, Science, and Math – but certainly not with all AP/IB course titles.
Second problem with HB 274: Even if Rep. Simmons limited his legislation to only ELAR, Science, Social Studies, and Math, it would still be a huge job for the Texas State Board of Education members (who are already inundated with too many responsibilities to do all of them well) to have the time and expertise to make sure the AP/IB courses are aligned with the TEKS. We must remember that the SBOE members are volunteers, and many of them have full-time jobs on the side. They also have no staff to help do their work and no budget to help pay for office expenses, etc.
The AP/IB compliance as required by HB 374 would have to be done by people who are highly skilled with content skills in each subject area. I do not think the Texas Education Agency could take on such an endeavor because they are already short staffed as it is. To implement HB 374 as written would undoubtedly require the SBOE/TEA to “farm” out the task to some entity, and who could be trusted…certainly not any Education Service Center! The problem is, “What entity is not tied to Common Core, Bill Gates, Microsoft, Pearson, etc. in some way?”
I believe Rep. Simmons’ best approach would be to reword his bill to put the responsibility on the backs of AP and IB to prove compliance with our TEKS before the AP/IB courses could be taught in Texas public schools. By state law right now, all of the TEKS must be covered in the AP and IB courses. It should be up to AP/IB to prove to the SBOE using released versions of current AP/IB tests that the courses cover the TEKS and are aligned to them in total.
The AP/IB should provide their compliance documentation in a side-by-side format with the TEKS on one side and the AP/IB course content on the other side. With this type of approach, the SBOE members together with the TEA staff could simply go through the compliance documentation and verify and certify each AP/IB course for use in Texas public schools. If the AP or IB course does not align with the TEKS in their entirety, the course should not be allowed to be taught in Texas public schools.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
2.12.15 — “Cleaning Corrupt Officials out of Austin” — by Donna Garner
9.24.14 – “Past Time To Impeach Thomas Ratliff” — by Donna Garner —