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Our victories this session
June 3, 2015
By Julie Linn, President of Texans for Education Reform
Texans for Education Reform (TER) is very proud of what we accomplished this legislative session, not only in the legislation we helped pass but also in our successful effort to shift the focus in the statewide education policy debate away from adult interests in our schools and onto the child.
Despite very entrenched and organized opposition to education reform efforts in Austin, two critical pieces of TER-supported legislation – A-F ratings for every public school campus and the establishment of the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability– passed as part of House Bill 2804 just before the final deadline in the Texas Legislature.
A-F school ratings will assure that every Texas parent knows how their child’s school is performing on several criteria. As we have seen in other states, adopting transparent A-F public school ratings provides important information to parents, educators and the community. It also encourages deeper involvement and - in the case of schools that are not performing well - a catalyst for parents and the local community to advocate for meaningful improvement.
The Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability will bring together experts, educators, business leaders, and parents to study, develop and make recommendations for new systems of student assessments and public school accountability. This 15 member commission will provide a blueprint that will move public education in Texas into the 21st century.
TER also supported the Innovation Zone proposal, part of House Bill 1842, to allow innovative districts to opt-out of some state mandates in order to implement locally designed programs to improve student achievement.
While HB 1842 does not include the meaningful intervention options that TER fought to establish - such as the Opportunity School District and Parent Empowerment - it modifies current interventions which will now include harsh sanctions after five years of consecutive failure. TER remains committed to policies that address the over 147,000 students who are trapped in failing schools after two or more consecutive years because research shows earlier intervention is in the best interests of students.
TER also supported Governor Greg Abbott’s high-quality pre-kindergarten proposal, House Bill 4, creating a grant which provides an additional $1,500 per eligible student for districts that provide an enhanced curriculum, employ certified pre-kindergarten teachers, develop a parental engagement plan, and collect data to measure effectiveness of their programs.
TER also supported these important advancements in education policy which were enacted into law:
- Senate Bill 925 establishes a reading training academy for teachers in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
- Senate Bill 934 establishes a math training academy for teachers in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
- Senate Bill 935 establishes a reading excellence team pilot program to employ master reading teachers to help improve reading instruction at low-performing campuses.
- House Bill 1171 grants public charter schools the same rights, such as immunity and governmental liability, as traditional school districts which will protect them from excessive and frivolous lawsuits.
- House Bill 2205 improves quality admission standards for those interested in becoming educators.
- House Bill 2251 allows public charter schools the ability to be given flexible payments vs. equal monthly payments to allow them to better manage their finances.
- House Bill 3106 extends the period in which a board of managers can operate in lieu of an elected school board if the district failed to serve taxpayers or students well.
We at TER believe these accomplishments, along with the policy changes we supported in 2013, are critical to improving our public schools. Going forward we will continue to advance policies that transform Texas public schools for every Texas child – regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code.
We appreciate your time and your commitment to education reform throughout this legislative session.