Education Proposals from Sen. Dan Patrick

Dec 26, 2012 by

Dan Patrick

Dan Patrick

with Comments by Donna Garner


On Dec. 21, 2012, Texas Senator Dan Patrick sent out his education proposals for the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session. He is the new chair of the Senate Education Committee, and I appreciate the fact that he is accessible to the grassroots.  He “does his homework” by reading and analyzing carefully the concerns that people share with him.

I agree with many of Sen. Patrick’s proposals, but I have definite reservations about a few of them.  First let me share the proposals that appear to have merit:


  • Replace Unacceptable-Exemplary system with an A-F grading system for school districts and campuses.
  • Grant the Education Commissioner the authority to take over school districts after 2 years of failing performance.
  • Revise parent trigger statute, giving parents authority to make changes in their school after 2 years of failing performance.
  • Allow districts to determine how they will use the STAAR End-of-Course (EOC) exam for up to 15% of a student’s grade.
  • Give districts an automatic waiver to begin school 5 days earlier than current start date.
  • Raise the current cap on the number of charters by 20 per year.
  • Allow unlimited number of charters to be approved by regional service centers after training from National Association of Charter Authorizes.
  • Improve the ability of the Education Commissioner to shut down poor performing or financially unstable charters.
  • Allow school districts to become Home Rule Charters or to designate any school a charter by the vote of the board.


Sen. Patrick wants to increase the availability and quality of charter schools.  I have no problem with the Texas legislature doing that except that they FIRST must pass safeguards for charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools that are supported by our tax dollars. It is these safeguards that would help to protect Texas children from charter schools that may be set up as “indoctrination factories” by nefarious special interest groups.

I have already submitted the following two sets of safeguards to Sen. Dan Patrick and to many other Texas Legislators.  The first set was written by an experienced Texas attorney. The second set was proposed during the last legislative session but was never allowed to get out of committee because of the lobbyists from the special interest groups.

I would hope that in this upcoming 83rd Legislative Session, the leadership would do the right thing and help to move forward to adopt solid safeguards for charter schools BEFORE even considering raising the cap.  Legislators could either adopt one of these two sets or a combination of both:

First set of safeguards written by Texas attorney:

  • That a financial audit conducted under generally accepted accounting practices by an independent, reputable auditor be required – and publicly available – from any charter school operator applying for bond guarantees or other financial incentives;
  • That the name, address, and citizenship of all board members and key administrators applying for said guarantee(s) or other financial incentives issued by the state be recorded and made available to the public;
  • That the funds in the underlying bonds or other financial incentives to privately owned, publicly financed schools are to be used solely for schools within Texas;
  • Severe criminal penalties for fraudulent activities involving bond guarantees or other financial incentives issued by states – such as a Class 2 Felony for criminal or securities fraud violations.

Second set of safeguards proposed in the 82nd Legislative Session:

  • Proof of U. S. citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top five highest-paid administrators. (Public ISD trustees must be U. S. citizens.)
  • Names, titles, and biographies posted online for all charter operator board members and top five highest-paid administrators.
  • Check registers posted online. (Over 70 % of local ISD dollars are online.)


  • Allow students to attend any public school of their choice in or out of their district based on capacity.
  • Create an Opportunity Scholarship program that provides means-tested scholarships to students to attend the private schools of their choice funded by business tax deductions.
  • Create choice brokers to help advise parents and students of the choices available to them for private and charter schools.


The idea of giving businesses tax credits for scholarships for children to attend private schools is a creative way that may allow private schools to avoid the legal strings from public dollars. I concur with this idea; however, the House Research Organization (HRO), Dec. 19, 2012, states:

…A related issue for debate could be providing tax credits for businesses that contribute scholarships for certain students to attend qualifying private schools. Proposals may impose state testing and accountability requirements on private schools receiving public money.” —  


As I have said many times before, we must not doom our private schools by destroying their independence to adopt their own curriculum and testing materials.  The HRO statement seems to indicate that even with the business tax credit idea in place, the House intends to tie private schools to the state/federal mandates.  This must not be allowed to happen. The private schools (and homeschools) are the last vestiges of traditional, faith-based education left in this country. Getting them shackled to state and federal curriculum standards, tests, and mandates would destroy their ability to educate children the way their parents want them to be educated.



Since no one has been able to show me a court case in which private schools that took public dollars were still allowed to maintain their independence from state/federal mandates including those over curriculum and testing, I cannot support taxpayer savings grants or vouchers because I do not want to see the independence of private schools destroyed.


However, Sen. Patrick’s idea of business tax credits may be a successful way to circumvent the possible litigious problems of the courts.  To be safe, before Texas Legislators vote on this business tax credits proposal, they first need to verify court case precedence that clearly indicates these business tax credits would not be considered public dollars that shackle private schools to federal/state mandates.


Sen. Patrick wants to:

  • Reduce the number of tests required for graduation based on the needs of colleges and the workforce with emphasis on Math and English.
  • Restructure graduation plan to one diploma called the Texas Foundation Diploma; with student selected specialties in STEM, Liberal Arts, Career and Business and Administration, as well as academically distinguished.· Repeal requirement that state colleges/universities can only accept students with a Recommended or Distinguished Diploma.
  • Create more flexibility to enable certain rigorous applied Career/Tech courses to satisfy graduation requirements.
  • Encourage industry to create specific workforce courses for districts.
  • Relax restrictions on teacher certification for CTE courses if teacher has work experience in that field and would be approved at the Community College level.
  • Create more dual credit courses so students can complete career certificates faster.
  • Create more flexibility for students to take rigorous applied Career/Technical courses that satisfy graduation requirements.
  • Direct commissioner to assess the ability of school districts to connect to the internet for on-line courses.
  • Enable middle and high school students to take rigorous academic courses from our best teachers and universities through an expande3d online learning program.
  • Increase number of on-line courses that can be taught with an assisting teacher in the room.


I have already laid out my concerns over dumbing down the “New Plan” that Texas public schools are just now beginning to implement in K-12:


12.3.12 – “To Gripers: Let New Plan for Texas Public Schools Continue” —



11.28.12 – “Texas Does Not Want a Two – Track System But Wants All To Be Educated Citizens” —




The Texas Legislature must not cave into the demands of the education establishment to back away from administering all of the STAAR/End-of-Course exams as presently required in legislation.


Before Sen. Patrick and other legislators consider doing away with any of the STAAR/EOC’s, all of these elected officials must first ask themselves these two questions:


What if I vote to delete the present accountability requirement in this course that all students must take the STAAR/End-of-Course test?  Since teachers in time will eventually teach their students whatever is on the STAAR/EOC  tests once the scores are made public, will removing the testing requirement in this course allow teachers to keep right on teaching their same Type #2 units rather than developing Type #1 curriculum units based upon the new Type #1 curriculum standards (TEKS)?


Do I as a Texas Legislator care whether our Texas students continue to be indoctrinated in Type #2 in this course?  


If our legislators think it is all right for this course in question to continue in Type #2, then they might consider deleting the STAAR/EOC accountability requirement for this course.


However, if Legislators want the students to be taught Type #1 in this course, then the legislators must keep the present STAAR/EOC  accountability requirements in place.

“Teachers will teach whatever is on the test.”  If the public accountability of the STAAR/EOC  in this course is taken away, teachers will go right on teaching the Type #2 curriculum.  This is the reality legislators must face each time they consider deleting a STAAR/EOC course requirement.


A quick review of Type #1 and Type #2:


TYPE #1 vs. TYPE #2


*My terminology and definitions:


(1)  Type #1 Philosophy of Education: Knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level-specific content that is tested largely through objectively scored tests  — These standards (TEKS) are built from K through Grade 12 and are taught mostly through direct, systematic instruction. The new TEKS adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education since May 2008 are Type #1, and the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests built upon the new TEKS are Type #1.


Type #1 standards could be referred to as the traditional method – the method of teaching that people perhaps 50 years old and older experienced when they were in school.  This included the teaching of phonics, grammar, correct usage/spelling, cursive handwriting, classical literature, expository/persuasive/research writing, the four math functions taught to automaticity, fact-based and discreet courses in Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Calculus, U. S. History, World History, Botany, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.   


(2) Type #2 Philosophy of Education (adopted in July 1997 and reflected in the TEKS and TAKS) — Project-based, subjective (emphasize cognitive domain – beliefs, opinions, emotions), subjectively assessed based upon the value system of the evaluator — emphasize multiculturalism, political correctness,  environmental extremism, diversity, social justice agenda  — These standards are built backwards from Grade 12 down to K (similar to trying to build a house from the roof down) and are taught mostly using the constructivist (project-based) approach.


Type #2 can be seen in Obama’s social justice agenda (i.e., Common Core Standards) that includes an emphasis on subjectivity, feelings, emotions, beliefs, multiculturalism, political correctness, social engineering, globalism, evolution, sexual freedom/contraceptives instead of abstinence, environmental extremism, global warming, victimization, diversity, an acceptance of the normalcy of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender lifestyle, redistribution of wealth, a de-emphasis on — factual knowledge, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Founding Fathers, and American exceptionalism.  




My next disagreement with Sen. Patrick’s proposals involves the idea of recommending a separate set of graduation requirements for STEM students (math and science emphasis).  If those students go to college or straight into the workforce, they will still have to be able to read, write, and speak English well.


How can they share with other people their great math and science discoveries if they do not have the deep content knowledge in the English language to be able to explain their work?


Besides that, if these STEM students go on to college, they will still have to take English courses that require them to have the prerequisite skills learned in four years of high-school English classes — not two.


I totally support the 4 x 4 concept (4 courses in English, Social Studies, Science, and Math), and I am very upset that legislators might decide to allow STEM students to graduate without taking four years of English and four years of Social Studies. To send these students out into the world with only a 10th grade education in every subject except for Math and Science would be doing them a huge disservice.



English III emphasizes American Literature and our great American authors.  English IV is the one time in a student’s life when he will be held accountable to read the great British and other world literary pieces that have stood the test of time.


It is the study of these literary pieces that helps students to understand the thousands of allusions in society that come from these literary pieces. Cartoons, movies, TV dramas, editorials, comedies, newspapers, reports, business journals, the social media, etc. use these literary allusions constantly.


To be well educated and to be connected to our society, a person needs to have read the great pieces of literature that bind generations of Americans with one another.


I recently talked to an experienced neuropsychologist who teaches doctoral students at one of the leading universities in California. He has multiple advanced degrees in his field and has a specialty in brain research. He said that STEM students must have a strong academic background in English because neurologically we all think in languages. STEM students must learn the discipline that comes from studying English to be able to articulate their research. He said that students are being cut from acceptance into the doctoral program at his university right now because they do not have the prerequisite skills required to research and write effectively.




It also concerns me greatly that the legislature might decide to drop the End-of-Course exam requirements in World Geography and World History for certain students.  “What gets tested gets taught.”  People constantly talk about the importance of students needing to be globally literate, yet Sen. Patrick’s proposal might take the pressure off students and teachers to make sure that our Texas graduates have the basis to function in a global society.


The World History and World Geography TEKS are excellent; and if the present EOC system is left in place, students and their teachers will be forced to move to the Type #1 knowledge-based, academic rigor that needs to be taught/learned in these two courses.


Why would our legislature even consider the idea of graduating dumbed down students to go into STEM/college/careers without their having the foundational knowledge to understand the world around them?


Texas must separate itself from Obama’s Common Core Standards plan which definitely dumbs down students’ knowledge of the development of mankind, the history of the world, and America’s important role in it.


Our new Texas World History curriculum standards (TEKS) make sure that all of our public school students study those concepts thoroughly.  To have an educated society, everyone must know where places are located in the world, what ethnicities/races populate various countries, how countries and their cities are spelled and pronounced, what languages people speak, what crops they grow, and what products they sell.


All Texas public school graduates need to have taken a solid course in World History and World Geography, and requiring them to take End-of-Course tests in these subjects would hold them and their teachers accountable for covering these TEKS well.



Here is the link to Texas’ World Geography TEKS:


Here is the link to Texas’ World History TEKS:





Our Texas public schools are just now beginning to see the real benefits of Texas’ New Plan as it moves into place. We have new Type #1 TEKS that schools are beginning to implement; we have new Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s that are tied to the new TEKS; and we have a new accountability system in the pipeline.


Texas also has a new graduation plan for this year’s sophomores on down; to change that plan right in the middle of the stream would add more chaos and confusion at a time when students, parents, and counselors are becoming familiar with the New Plan and aligning students’ course selections with it.


I believe if Sen. Patrick and other legislators retreat right at the time when we are about to see victory under the New Plan, our public school students will be the victims.


The Texas Education Agency, the Texas State Board of Education, many Legislators, and the education establishment are beginning to come together on various issues such as (1) by allowing local school districts to decide whether or not to count the EOC’s as 15% of a student’s grade, (2) by creating a new accountability system that takes into consideration more than just the scores on the high-stakes tests, (3) and by retooling and updating some of the career/technology TEKS.


These concessions are fair and do not weaken the underlying goals.  I believe we should allow the New Plan to proceed without further interruption; and in years to come, Sen. Patrick, the legislators, and everyone else will be thrilled to see the emergence of a better-educated Texas workforce emerging from our Texas public schools.



  • Direct commissioner to assess the ability of school districts to connect to the internet for on-line courses.
  • Enable middle and high school students to take rigorous academic courses from our best teachers and universities through an expanded online learning program.
  • Increase number of on-line courses that can be taught with an assisting teacher in the room.



As someone who was the writer/consultant for an online tutorial to help students learn English proficiency, I understand that knowledge-based, academic content can be taught successfully through distance learning. However, I am not convinced (and I know of no independent, peer-reviewed, replicated research to the contrary) that distance learning teachers can hold students accountable for implementing correct and sophisticated writing and speaking skills into their day-to-day communications at the same level as can live, qualified teachers working face-to-face with live students.


The human interchanges, body language, spontaneity, teachable moments, and live question-and-answer interactions between teacher and student cannot be duplicated online; and I am convinced that online teachers tend to “dumb down” their expectations for students’ compositions.  In other words, students who take courses online do not have their written compositions nor their spoken presentations evaluated at the same academic level as those done in a classroom setting.


Over the course of time if Sen. Patrick’s technology proposals were put into place, we would see a further spiraling down of human interchanges and sophisticated discourse, further increasing our culture’s lack of clear communication and deepening the divide among people groups.


Donna Garner


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