It’s a Win: Commissioner Omits Corporate Charter Chains From Recommended List

Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams has chosen not to approve applications to open corporate-style charter-school chains proposed by two out-of-state operators. Foundations Charter Schools wanted to open 50 charter schools in Texas, starting with a dozen in the Dallas and Houston areas. Athlos Academies was targeting the Dallas-Fort Worth area for at least 15 schools. Many of you heeded our call to write to Commissioner Williams in opposition to these applications, citing sketchy academic offerings and potential corporate conflicts of interest. Congratulations on a successful effort to make grass-roots concerns heard!

The commissioner’s omission of the two out-of-state operators means they cannot be further considered by the State Board of Education in the current application cycle.  But the SBOE will be able to exercise the final say over the applications of five other would-be charter operators given a preliminary okay by the commissioner.  Texas AFT will be giving those applications even closer scrutiny now that they have made the first cut, and we will report our findings to you shortly. The SBOE review of the commissioner’s recommended charter applicants will occur next month.

Posted in Charter Schools, Michael Williams, SBOE, TEA | Leave a comment

TELL survey of Texas educators produces more questions than answers

The Texas Education Agency today released results–at least some of the results–of a survey targeting more than 425,000 Texas educators. The Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Texas Survey was authorized by legislation passed last session in the Texas legislature, andTEA intended for it to help schools plan for improvement by gauging the working conditions of teachers, principals, counselors and other professional staff. (The plans are to conduct the survey every two years.)

But low participation rates–about 20 percent overall–and questions about how the survey was designed and distributed, and whether it was truly anonymous, put a bit of a damper on the release of results. Also making the numbers murkier is the fact that TEA only made public results for districts and campuses that achieved survey participation rates of 50 percent or higher.

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges had this to say today in a news release on the TELL survey results:

We supported this survey and did a lot of legwork encouraging our members to take it, because we felt it was important to get more information on the working environment for school professionals.

Unfortunately, the low response rate and the inability to view much of any specific data related to campuses and districts leave us with a lot more questions than answers, and that’s a position you usually don’t want to be in after spending a lot of time and money on a statewide survey of 425,000 educators.

We also expressed our concerns to TEA about the 50 percent participation rate threshold required for public reporting of the results. While we agree that some threshold is needed, we would have preferred a lower threshold and more information on how representative the responses were for different types of educators and campuses.

Without the ability to evaluate specific kinds of campuses, the overall results could be misleading. For instance, is there a particular type of district or campus that was most likely to meet the 50 percent participation threshold for public examination of results?

What does it tell us when only 9 percent of districts met the 50 percent threshold, with the vast majority of those being small districts or charter school districts? How revealing can the results be if every major urban school district—with the exception of Austin ISD, which required participation—fell significantly short of the 50 percent threshold?

Two districts facing challenges in educating our kids, Houston ISD and Dallas ISD, had dismal participation rates–11 percent and 13 percent respectively. That only allows us to view results for 8 of the 286 campuses in Houston ISD, and 21 of the 233 campuses in Dallas ISD.

While there are going to be kinks in any project of this size, we noted a significant number of problems with its implementation. Key problems included lack of knowledge of the survey, administrators stifling participation, and educator mistrust that the results truly would be anonymous.

Many educators also felt the questions presented were too vague. For example, we know that time spent preparing for and administering standardized tests is a significant concern, but two questions simply asking for the number of hours spent per week on assessments aren’t sufficient to gauge that impact.

Here are a few of the comments we received regarding the survey:

“I would have never known about this survey had I not stumbled upon it.”

“The survey did not feel confidential because you had to request a code, and the admin would be aware of who received what code.”·

“Every teacher I spoke to at my campus was basically afraid to be completely honest. No one believed in the anonymity, and retaliation in the school is swift and very stern.”

“My principal knew nothing about it, and I had to request the codes myself for the campus. I encouraged teachers to complete the survey personally and during in-service. We got only 40% of our campus to participate.”

“It asked for my campus name, my grade level, what other grades I’ve taught, and my years of experience. And they considered it an ‘anonymous’ survey. Really?”

“I was never given a code. It was awkward to ask admin for a code. I did request one online, but by the time I knew about the survey, I was neck-deep in end-of-year duties, so the timing was bad.”

“I didn’t find the survey useful at all. The questions were entirely too vague, not specific enough to be of any use to anyone.”

Posted in Legislature, Reports, TEA, Teachers | Leave a comment

Upcoming Events at the State Capitol

The Texas Senate Education Committee will mark the start of the 2014-2015 school year next week with a public hearing on August 26 on some important issues sure to receive the attention of lawmakers in the 2015 legislative session. The committee will take public testimony on the testing and accountability changes enacted in 2013 as well as on the state’s policies encouraging online instruction.

Texas AFT will be on hand to monitor the hearing and advise the committee that Texas students and teachers need further relief from the continuing overuse and misuse of state achievement tests. We also will urge the committee to be on guard against dubious claims of educational effectiveness made by purveyors of full-time virtual schooling, including for-profit operators like K12, Inc. To put it mildly, these claims are not supported by the evidence.

Anticipation is meanwhile mounting in Austin that a state district judge will soon issue a final ruling in the long-running lawsuit filed by hundreds of school districts against the state for failing to fund the public schools properly. District Judge John Dietz had issued a preliminary ruling against the state last year, then reopened the case to take new evidence after the legislature restored some funding last session. If Dietz issues a final ruling that the state has not met its obligations under the state constitution to fund public schools adequately and equitably, the stage will be set for further judicial review and eventually a legislative response. However, a final Texas Supreme Court ruling in the case might not come in time for the legislature to respond in the 140-day regular session that begins next January. Hence chances are that lawmakers will have to hold a special session to deal with school finance later next year.

As soon as we have the ruling from Judge Dietz, you can expect a thorough report on its scope and implications in future Hotline messages.

Posted in Accountability System, Funding, Legislature, School Finance, Testing | Leave a comment

Leveling the Playing Field—Call for Stronger Standards for Charter Schools

Lax application standards and weak oversight of charter schools authorized to operate by the state have left Texas with charter campuses that on the whole have a track record of academic performance inferior to that of traditional public schools. Last year the legislature enacted a partial corrective. Senate Bill 2, while authorizing continued charter expansion, called at the same time for more rigorous standards to be applied when charters are initially approved and for quicker revocation of charters that are consistently substandard. But the legislature left it largely to the commissioner of education to enforce the new regime and flesh out the new requirements in his administrative rules.

Now he has proposed those new rules, with public comments invited through August 18. Texas AFT has submitted suggestions for strengthening the rules, while representatives of the charter-school industry have been lobbying to weaken them. You can help level the playing field between taxpayer-funded charter schools and traditional public schools by sending in to the Texas Education Agency comments of your own on the rules, reinforcing the Texas AFT message that if anything these rules need to be toughened in accordance with legislative intent, not softened at the behest of charter interests.

You can submit 14 recommendations regarding the commissioner’s proposed charter rules here. For your convenience, here’s the text of the comments–which you can edit or add to–prepared for you to submit in support of Texas AFT’s recommendations:

Transparency and Integrity

1.  These proposed rules regarding academic criteria and financial criteria for charters are incomplete, and their rigor cannot be fully evaluated, because there is a missing link—the still-“pending” Charter School Performance Frameworks referenced in Section 100.1010 on page 12 of these proposed rules. The frameworks should have been available to view alongside the proposed rules in order to see a complete picture of the proposed regulatory scheme.

2.  One improvement in the application and selection process would be the commissioner’s own attendance at charter interviews, which should be required in these rules. These decisions are important and should not be treated as matters for mere paper review by the commissioner.

3. The ethics requirements articulated in Section 100.1002(d) on page 7 for persons serving as external application review panel members are commendable and should be maintained.

Quality Criteria

4.  Section 100.1002 (h) on page 8, regarding selection criteria, states the commissioner “may” consider the listed criteria. The word “may” should be changed to “shall,” so that the enumerated criteria must be used by the commissioner in determining whether to grant a charter.

5.  On page 28, in Section 100.1022, subsection (b)(2)(F), for grade levels in a charter school where most students are not given a state assessment, the commissioner would be empowered simply to “evaluate the performance of the charter holder” without reference to any specific criteria. The rule should be revised to say the commissioner may “evaluate the performance of the charter holder using meaningful, research-based criteria.”

6.  Proposed Section 100.1002 (j) on page 9 states that “priority” should be given to a school proposed in an attendance zone of a school district campus assigned an “academically unacceptable” performance rating. However, this section needs elaboration.  Surely the intent here should be to give “priority” not to just any applicant making such a proposal but rather to a genuinely high-performing applicant with a track record of demonstrated success in schools with student enrollment having similar socioeconomic characteristics. Language to this effect should be added to the provision. Section 100.1002 should also give priority to those genuinely high-performing applicants that seek to serve the fastest-growing student demographic in Texas–low-income, English language learners.

7.  Item (25) in Section 100.1001 on page 6 provides a definition for “high-performing charter.” This designation should be reserved for entities that have actually fully complied with the “high-performing” criterion stated in the Texas Education Code (e.g., in Section 12.1011), excluding those entities that have been exempted from full compliance with this criterion by commissioner waiver. The commissioner may have the power to confer waivers of this statutory criterion but should not dilute the legislatively intended meaning of genuine “high performance” in the process. An entity that has received a waiver from this criterion should be identified as such.

Parental communication and involvement

8.  Charter board members are not elected by or responsible to local voters. Unlike regular school districts that hold periodic public meetings, charter school boards are likely to meet by phone or internet. Hence charter schools should have a communication plan to relay information easily to and from parents. Parents should be informed by multiple avenues, including publication and website.

9.  Sec. 12.130 of the Ed Code states each open-enrollment charter school shall provide to the parent or guardian of each student enrolled in the school written notice of the qualifications of each teacher employed by the school. The statute was written in 2001 and does not specify when or how often this notice must be provided. The proposed charter school rules should require teacher qualifications and experience to be posted on the school’s website and at an accessible physical location for parents with no access to computers.

10.  The proposed deletion of Section 100.1021, subsection (c), on page 25 would eliminate a requirement that charter holders notify parents and guardians of students in a school subject to adverse action that such action is pending. Such notice is important and the requirement should be reinstated at the appropriate points in the proposed new sections of these rules relating to adverse actions.

11.  In Section 100.1002, subsection (h), criterion (4) on page 8 now makes “evidence of parental and community support for the proposed charter school” a criterion for determining whether to grant a charter. That criterion should be amended to say “evidence of parental and community support for or opposition to the proposed charter school.”

Additional Issues

12.  On page 19, changes in Section 100.1015(b)(1)(C) appear to loosen current standards in place for the determination of financial viability of charter applicants. The rules for financial viability should if anything be strengthened, not weakened, and I question whether this change conforms to legislative intent to raise standards for charter applicants.

13.  The term “proprietary material” is left undefined in Section 100.1002, subsection (f), on page 8. It should be defined as narrowly as possible to prevent indiscriminate withholding of information essential for the evaluation of a charter application on the mere say-so of the applicant.

14.  On page 21, in Section 100.1015, subsection (b)(3)(F), the requirement that charter applicants commit to hiring teachers who must have baccalaureate degrees, regardless of subject matter taught, is sound and should be retained. 

Posted in Charter Schools, Legislature, Michael Williams, TEA | Leave a comment

Van de Putte Proposal Would Guarantee Two Years of Community College for High-School Grads

The percentage of adults over 25 with a high-school diploma is lower in Texas than in any other state. That’s a waste of human potential and a blow to the state’s economic productivity. Projections are that in the near future more than half of job openings will require not only high-school completion but also additional educational credentials beyond high school.

To address this situation, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who is running for lieutenant governor with Texas AFT’s strong backing, proposes a state guarantee of sufficient financial support to provide two years of community college or technical school for every student who completes more than the foundation (minimum) program and graduates from high school. Van de Putte would ask Texas voters to dedicate existing funds for this purpose by way of a constitutional amendment.

The plan would guarantee that every eligible student can have two years of post-secondary college or career training.  Lack of financial resources would no longer be a stumbling block. What Van de Putte calls her Texas Promise Scholarship would fill whatever gap exists between a student’s other available state or federal financial assistance and the full cost of two years of tuition and fees at any public community college, technical college, or other two-year state institution.

Van de Putte’s guarantee of two years of college free of tuition and fees would be a powerful incentive for high-school completion by itself. But her plan also would spur high-school completion by:  bolstering resources for student counseling; expanding initiatives to provide courses with college credit in high school; and enhancing coordination between schools and business and industry to provide curriculum relevant to students’ career interests.

Incidentally, on September 29 you will be able to hear Van de Putte debate this and many other topics with her opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race, Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston. Stay tuned for more information.

Posted in Elections, Funding, Higher Education | Leave a comment

Answers to Questions about Education of Unaccompanied Central American Children Seeking U.S. Refuge

The flow of unaccompanied Central American children seeking refuge at the Texas-Mexico border in recent months may have abated lately, but the approach of a new school year brings questions about the education of the school-age kids among them while their immigration status is resolved. With Texas AFT in the lead, the recent American Federation of Teachers national convention in Los Angeles passed a special policy resolution committing AFT to work with civic leaders, clergy, refugee and immigrant rights groups, labor and other community organizations to ensure that these children’s health, educational, safety and legal needs are being met.  The Texas Education Agency on August 12 forwarded to school districts a U.S. Department of Education advisory on the educational aspects of this issue, including the following Q-and-A:

Q1. Do States and school districts have an obligation to educate children who arrived to the United States?

A1. Yes. Under Federal law, States and local educational agencies are obligated to provide all children–regardless of immigration status–with equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary level. This includes children such as unaccompanied children who may be involved in immigration proceedings….

Q2. Where are unaccompanied children housed while in temporary custody?

A2. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) operates about 150 shelters throughout the nation for unaccompanied children that care for the children until they are released to sponsors, on average within 35 days. A majority of these shelters care for fewer than 50 children. Shelters are operated by non-profit organizations, generally as group homes. HHS pays for and provides all services for the children while they are in care at a shelter. This includes providing food, clothing, education, medical screening, and any needed medical care to the children. The children at these shelters do not attend local public schools, do not integrate into the local community, and remain under staff supervision at all times. Additional information about HHS custody is available here.

Q3. Are children provided with basic education services while in temporary custody at HHS shelters?

A3. Yes. The children are provided with basic education services and activities by HHS grantees. Thus, these children do not enroll in local schools while living in HHS shelters.

Q4. Are children who arrived as unaccompanied children ever enrolled in local schools?

A4. While students are in HHS custody at HHS shelters, they will not be enrolled in the local school systems. When students are released to an appropriate sponsor, typically a parent, relative or family member, or other adult sponsor, while awaiting immigration proceedings, they have a right–just like other children living in their community–to enroll in local schools regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived immigration or citizenship status. State laws also require children to attend school up to a certain age. A small number of children in HHS custody are placed in long-term foster care instead of being released to a sponsor. These children do enroll in public school in the community where their foster care is located. Children in all other care settings receive education at an HHS facility.

Q5. Are immunization records available for children who arrived as unaccompanied children to the United States?

A5. While at HHS shelters, the children receive vaccinations. When a child is released from HHS custody to a sponsor, the sponsor is given a copy of the child’s medical and immunization records compiled during their time in custody. If a sponsor does not have a copy of the child’s medical or immunization records, the sponsor can request a new copy from HHS via e-mail at Requests.DUCS@acf.hhs.gov.

Q6. Are children who arrived as unaccompanied children eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

A6. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA,” does not apply to children who arrive now or in the future in the United States. To be considered for DACA, individuals must have continually resided in the U.S. since June 2007.

Q7. Do districts have the ability to use Federal education funds to address the needs of unaccompanied children who enroll in the district?

A7. States and LEAs have the ability to use various Federal education funds for this purpose. For example, to the extent that such children attend Title I schools, they may be eligible to receive Title I, Part A services. In addition, as discussed above, States can reserve up to 15% of their Title III formula grants for immigrant subgrants, and if a State has previously reserved a lesser amount, it could increase that amount for next year’s subgrants.

Q8. Is there a place to ask additional questions about immigrant children who enroll in the district?

A8. For help with additional questions regarding resources for unaccompanied children, please call the U.S. Department of Education at 1-800-USA-LEARN or visit answers.ed.gov.

For an electronic version of the entire federal fact sheet, including the above Q-and-A plus links to cited documents, visit: www.ed.gov/unaccompaniedchildren.

Posted in AFT, Funding, Schoolchildren, Social Services, TEA | Leave a comment

What State Accountability Ratings Do and Don’t Tell Us

Initial 2014 accountability ratings for school districts, charter operators, and individual campuses published by the Texas Education Agency on August 8 “remained fairly stable compared to 2013,” according to TEA’s accompanying news release. “The 2014 numbers are strong,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. “Texans should be pleased to see the vast majority of districts, charters, and campuses are meeting the standards set in the second year of the state accountability system,” he said.

Williams was referring to the second year of ratings under the latest version of the accountability system, called STAAR (for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness). The commissioner’s press release also touted anew the multiple criteria that go into state ratings, including student progress, closing of performance gaps between student subgroups, and post-secondary readiness.

The commissioner’s summary statement was accurate, as far as it went. Some 90.1 percent of school districts and charter entities met state standards, while 9 percent failed to meet the standards and received an “Improvement Required” rating. At the campus level, 84.9 percent met standards, while 8.7 percent received an “Improvement Required” rating. These percentages differed little from those reported the year before.

However, what Commissioner Williams did not say includes the following:

–Those “fairly stable” ratings reflect a host of discretionary decisions by the commissioner, including the determination of the scores needed to achieve a passing mark on state achievement tests. If the commissioner should decide to set a lower or higher hurdle, then apparent passing rates would go up or down accordingly, and so would the number of districts, charters, and campuses deemed to have “met standard.” In short, these ratings don’t come down on stone tablets from the mountaintop. They reflect fallible judgment calls. That’s not a critique, it’s just a fact that is too easily overlooked.

–While the ratings are based on four “indexes” of  performance, three and a half out of the four come down to some variation on students’ scores on the state achievement tests. In addition to the main “snapshot” measurement of achievement based on test scores, changes in these scores from year to year determine whether “student progress” targets have been met and whether achievement gaps have closed. STAAR scores or their equivalent also determine in part whether the fourth standard, post-secondary readiness, has been met.

–Performance by charter entities lags substantially behind performance of regular school districts and campuses. As in previous years, charter “districts” and individual charter campuses are far more likely than regular districts and campuses to receive a low rating.

–This year18.2 percent of charter operators that received a rating were given an “Improvement Required” rating, versus only 7.4 percent of school districts. In addition, more than one out of every six charter operators got the benefit of a more lenient, alternative rating method for serving a certain percentage of at-risk students—an alternative rating method unavailable to regular school districts serving comparable populations.

–At the individual campus level, the results were similar. Some 17 percent of the state’s charter campuses–100 out of 588–received an “Improvement Required” rating. The comparable percentage for the regular public schools was 8.1 percent. Thus charter campuses were more than twice as likely as traditional public schools to be rated low-performing.

–The biggest story concerning the state’s test-driven accountability system is that it has increasingly lost legitimacy in the eyes of parents, educators, and lawmakers. The call for an end to over-reliance on standardized testing and for better options for gauging performance of schools and students continues unabated. Commissioner Williams’ largely test-based ratings system ignores legislative intent, as manifested in the provision of last session’s HB 5 that called on him to minimize reliance on students’ state test scores in the accountability system to the greatest extent possible. The legislature last session also voted unanimously to prohibit any use of state test scores that could not be proven valid and reliable for the purpose. The legislature also unanimously voted for the development of alternatives to standardized testing, such as project-based assessment and other holistic approaches, as the basis for judging student performance. Only a couple of vetoes by Gov. Rick Perry kept these bills from becoming law. Given the ongoing outcry against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing, the battle to pass these or similar bills is likely to resume when the legislature meets again in 2015.

Posted in Accountability System, Charter Schools, Legislature, Michael Williams, Testing | Leave a comment

Van de Putte Calls for End to High-Stakes Testing

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the San Antonio Democrat running for lieutenant governor, is fed up with the overuse and misuse of standardized testing that has been mandated by both state and federal legislation, and she invites you to join her in doing something about it. If you agree with her that the time has come to return to the use of testing for diagnostic, not destructive, purposes, you can sign her petition to get rid of high-stakes testing here.

Van de Putte’s petition on that Web site puts the case this way:
Texas students are not standardized. So why is Texas forcing students to take standardized, cookie-cutter tests?

Years of state and federal mandates have created a crisis in Texas public schools. But the federal government and special interests in Austin don’t know what’s best for our kids.

Let’s give control over our classrooms back to teachers and parents.

Add your voice: It’s time to put Texas families first by eliminating high stakes testing.
Van de Putte is in synch with the many Texas parents and educators who have rebelled against the testing craze and who achieved a partial victory in the 2013 legislature, which scaled back the number of high-stakes, standardized tests in high school.  But the senator’s new proposal goes to the heart of the matter, which is the misuse of this one flawed yardstick of standardized testing to mismeasure student, school, and teacher performance.

Van de Putte is not proposing to do away with all state testing, though she would reduce the number of state tests to a bare minimum. The results could still be used as one of a number of indicators to help identify where students may be falling short. But the emphasis would shift toward diagnosis and early intervention to correct problems, based on better measures that give a more complete picture of school and student performance. Under her proposal, we would begin to put behind us the test-and-punish system that has evolved since Texas began the craze for high-stakes testing 20 years ago.

Posted in Accountability System, Elections, Testing | Leave a comment

Texas Senate, Preparing for 2015, Will Weigh Funding Schemes for Private-School Vouchers

Lt Gov. David Dewhurst will not be around to preside over the Texas Senate when it reconvenes in January, having lost his bid for the Republican nomination to seek re-election. But he still has a hand in shaping the agenda for the 2015 session with interim study assignments for key committees. And today he used that power to put “school choice”—code for private-school vouchers and equivalent measures—on the 2015 education agenda.

Dewhurst’s interim study charge to the Senate Education Committee on this topic reads as follows:

SCHOOL CHOICE.  Lt. Governor Dewhurst asked the committee to conduct a comprehensive review of school choice programs in other states and examine the impact of education tax credits and taxpayer savings grants on the state budget.

The reference to tax credits and “taxpayer savings grants” signals clearly that Dewhurst is talking about ways to divert funds from the public treasury to private schools, for that is what these funding mechanisms are all about. They are nothing but vouchers by another name.

Perhaps by sheer coincidence, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Dan Patrick, this very day was sounding off in support of “school choice.” Patrick, the Houston Republican who vanquished Dewhurst in the G.O.P. primary, served last session as the premier pitchman for private-school vouchers in the Senate.

Patrick faces Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Democrat of San Antonio, in the lieutenant governor’s race to be decided November 4. Van de Putte presents a clear contrast with Patrick on this issue, as on many others. She is a staunch opponent of private-school vouchers. (Van de Putte has Texas AFT’s strong backing in this contest.)

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced other interim study assignments relating to public education today. For instance, he directed the Senate Jurisprudence Committee to:

study and make recommendations on the feasibility of removing failure to attend school (Section 25.094, Texas Education Code) as a Class C misdemeanor offense and determine the feasibility of adjudicating juvenile truancy as a civil offense.

Dewhurst also gave the Senate Education Committee four more topics to consider:

SENATE BILL 2.  Lt. Governor Dewhurst charged the committee with monitoring the implementation of SB 2, relating to certain charter schools.

HOUSE BILL 462.  Lt. Governor Dewhurst also charged the committee with monitoring the implementation of HB 462, related to the prohibition on developing or adopting common core standards.

RIGHTS OF PARENTS.  Lt. Governor Dewhurst instructed the committee to review Chapter 26, Education Code (Parental Rights and Responsibilities) and determine if any statutory changes are necessary to strengthen the rights of parents.

PERFORMANCE STANDARDS.  Lt. Governor Dewhurst also instructed the committee to review Chapter 8, Education Code (Regional Education Service Centers), specifically the purpose and the performance standards and indicators developed by the Commissioner.

Posted in Legislature, Vouchers | Leave a comment

Lt. Gov. Candidate Van de Putte’s Education Proposals—Fulfilling the Promise of Public Education

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio), candidate for lieutenant governor, laid out her vision for the future of Texas public schools today in terms that left no doubt how much she differs from her opponent, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston).  Accompanied by supporters including Texas AFT members from our San Antonio affiliates, Van de Putte spoke outside a San Antonio elementary school whose students are among the five million enrollees in our state’s public schools who would benefit under her plan.

Linda Bridges, president of Texas AFT, offered this comment today on that plan:


I don’t know how the contrast between Leticia Van de Putte and Dan Patrick could be any clearer after reading Van de Putte’s plans for education.

On the one hand, you have a proven leader who has fought for public education throughout her 14 years on the Senate Education Committee, while on the other you have a guy who spent his first term chairing that committee with the intent to dismantle public education via private-school vouchers and bills to help turn neighborhood schools over to private charter operators.

Patrick didn’t even wring his hands over the $5.4 billion cuts to education and resulting loss of 11,000 teachers in 2011. He twiddled his thumbs, then voted for the cuts, while Van de Putte fought to bring sanity into the budget and provide full support for the 80,000 new students that enter our schools each year.

Our teachers and the parents who support them understand that the best way to educate our kids is to give them full support, equal opportunity and proven policies like pre-K and smaller class sizes featured in Van de Putte’s plan. They know that further segregating our schools into the haves and have-nots—as Patrick proposes with his privatization efforts—is the biggest mistake we can make for Texas’s future.


Van de Putte’s plan as outlined today (see http://leticiavandeputte.com/texasfirst-education/) includes these key elements:


–restore full-day funding for quality pre-K programs;

–reduce class sizes in pre-K (because currently there’s no cap on class size in pre-K);

–invest in the schools, proven programs, and teachers our schoolchildren need to reach their potential;

–end the over-reliance on and punitive nature of standardized testing—return to diagnostic use of testing, reduce the number of tests, and make tests more timely so that early interventions can help students graduate and get a head start on college and career;

–promote access to blended learning for all students, expanding broadband availability to all, ensuring that digital learning is of high quality, and maintaining vital face-to-face interaction with teachers; and

–improving community-based control and accountability to parents and taxpayers—for example, by ensuring that parents have real access to the board members who determine curriculum and instruction for their children (in contrast to some charter s that have been allowed to open here without anyone physically located in Texas on their governing board).


In contrast, Sen. Patrick in his time in the Senate not only has embraced deep cuts in education funding, but also has sought to expand the misuse of standardized testing, and he has served as the enthusiastic pitch man for private, corporate takeover of public schools via private-school vouchers and other schemes.

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