Oct 25, 2012 by


(PART 2 OF 2) – My thoughts on massive school funding lawsuit in Texas —


“Texas Schools Can Cut Spending”

by Donna Garner

Originally published on 3.22.11 (Updated on 10.24.12)


The old TEKS (i.e., curriculum requirements for teachers — standards) that were used in Texas for the last ten years (since July 1997) followed a format and verbiage that was very generic, inexplicit, broad, and not specific by grade levels.  For instance, the English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR) standards (TEKS) were the same in grades K-3, 4-8, and 9-12.  That meant that teachers in those grade clusters all had the same goals.  Who was supposed to teach what?  Nobody knew because the standards themselves gave no clear direction.


Therefore, school districts (even the little tiny districts) began to hire curriculum directors to help teachers figure out what needed to be taught at each grade level.  Those curriculum directors in turn also did not know what needed to be taught at each grade level because of the foggy TEKS documents; and this meant they had to go off to many meetings/conferences to be taught by consultants.


When the curriculum directors got to these meetings/conferences, they would hear zippy, entertaining, fast-talking consultants; and the curriculum directors would go back to their districts and beg to have the administration bring in the consultants. The highly-paid consultants would come into the local districts to do the training; and of course, they all had their own products to sell. They would tell districts to buy their wares in order to give teachers grade-level-specific goals to reach.


[UPDATE: Now the Texas Education Service Centers are selling their own wares – CSCOPE.  Some 80% of school districts have now used their taxpayers’ dollars to buy CSCOPE which has never been shown by independent, peer-reviewed researchers to raise students’ academic achievement on the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests. Is CSCOPE expensive? Ector County ISD just spent $1.7 million on CSCOPE for this school year, and many other districts have done the same.


In fact, nobody even knows whether CSCOPE is aligned to the newly adopted TEKS because CSCOPE has not gone through the normal instructional materials’ adoption process in which public hearings occur, factual errors are documented, and publishers are fined if those errors are not corrected. Because anyone who teaches from CSCOPE is forced under duress to sign a contract which basically forbids the sharing of the materials with the public, it has been only recently that the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education have even been allowed some access to CSCOPE.]   


Add up all the curriculum directors (in large districts, there is one curriculum director for almost every grade level), the curriculum directors’ staffs, the highly paid consultants, and the products sold by the consultants; and you have a whole boatload of taxpayers’ dollars!


When the Texas State Board of Education began to adopt new TEKS (May 2008 to the present time), they established a completely different structure for them.  The new standards had to be knowledge-based, academic, explicit, grade-level specific, and measurable.


For instance, the new ELAR’s have specific elements that tell teachers the goals that are to be met at each grade level. This is the same thing for the Science and Social Studies, and Math TEKS.  One of the unique facets of the Math TEKS is that elementary teachers in K through Grade 5 are strongly encouraged NOT to allow students to use calculators but instead to learn their math facts to the automaticity level.



A teacher can now take the ELAR, Science, Social Studies, or Math TEKS documents; and by reading the elements listed, he knows WHAT to teach and exactly WHAT students are to learn.  Students and parents can also look at the new TEKS and know the same thing.  No “interpreters” are necessary.  Of course, it is up to the individual teacher to decide HOW to teach the standards and reach the explicit goals; but at least he does not have to wonder as he did for ten years WHAT he should teach.


If local teachers are given enough time to work in department groups within their schools or (in the case of small schools with departments in surrounding schools), they can decide for themselves HOW to teach the TEKS for their particular grade levels; and the districts will be out no money for the curriculum directors, expensive conferences/meetings, consultants, and high-priced curriculum systems. Teachers are by nature creative; and given a goal to reach, they can do it if given enough time and instructional support from local principals and other administrators.


There are many other ways for schools to save money also.  For instance, I have suggested to every Texas Legislator who has asked me for suggestions that he should ask any experienced classroom teacher where he thinks cuts could be made that would not hurt the academic standards of the district.  I wager that there is not a single classroom teacher who would be shy about telling Legislators where the “fat can be trimmed” without hurting the academics in the district.


These same classroom teachers to a person would also tell Legislators what a total waste of money the Education Service Centers are.  I taught for 33+ years myself, and I can remember only one professional development/in-service training session that was practical and worthwhile for me to implement into my classroom. On the other hand, the very best ideas that I ever got came from my fellow teachers through peer group sharing.



To mention the obvious, it also would not hurt for administrators to “sacrifice” some of their largesse found in their contracts. It bothers us in the public to watch these Save Our Classroom rallies without hearing a single administrator who says he is willing to put back into the school budget at least a part of his salary and negotiated perks found in his contract.  Administrators should be leaders.  How about leading by example?


As someone recently said:


I believe a simple rule should be applied to the budgetary shortfalls our schools are facing:  If you are in front of kids each day and actively teaching, your job is safe.  If that rule is applied, then what do we cut?


Administrators make eloquent arguments to justify their positions, but we have too many of them.  If we are really serious about making significant cuts, why not start with the positions that carry the highest salaries?  Why not have our principals teach one or two periods a day?  They were teachers at one time.  Why not have them double up and in so doing help cut down on the student-to-teacher ratio.


We need to eliminate or significantly reduce education service centers….Not only do we pay the salaries of these individuals, but we also pay to purchase and maintain the buildings they occupy.  The regional service center that serves our area says on its own website that it has 315 full and part-time employees.  Many of these individuals rarely enter a classroom. 


To see examples from school districts that are practicing wasteful spending, please go to the Americans for Prosperity Rotten Apple Award website:  http://www.redappleproject.com/


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