School choice is a good thing, right? School vouchers are good for students, right? Who wouldn’t want free money from the state to help pay for private school, even for those who can easily afford it? But consider this: Don’t you find it strange that the rollout of a flawed A-F accountability system conveniently coincides with the start of the 2017 legislative session — and with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s push for vouchers? Private schools have to be better than public schools, don’t they? To find the answers to these questions, let’s take a closer look at school vouchers and see what they do. (By the way, other labels for vouchers include school choice, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts, so don’t get confused when you hear these other terms.) view article arw

John Wink , superintendent of Blue Ridge ISD created this webpage for people to quickly find contact info on the Senate Ed Committee in order to make several calls to them or to send letters.  Please share with your folks and encourage them to pick up the phone and call. read more arw

AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday announced his appointments of lawmakers to lead 14 Texas Senate committees that will field various legislation during the 85th legislative session. Notably, Patrick shook up the Committee on Education, stacking it with some of the Senate’s most ardent defenders of vouchers as he prepares to push an aggressive so-called “school choice” agenda. The issue has divided the upper chamber and the House in past legislative sessions, a trend that is expected to continue this time.  While  Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood kept his post as chairman, the lieutenant governor removed two Democrats from the panel – Sens. Sylvia Garcia of Houston and Jose Rodriguez of El Paso – who have become vocal opponents of the Senate GOP agenda that they argue neglects public schools. view article arw

Two years ago, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shook up the Texas Senate in his first legislative session as lieutenant governor by shuffling around committee assignments. This year, he is mostly sticking with the status quo.  view article arw

Yesterday I listened to Reps. Dustin Burrows (Houston) and Drew Darby (San Angelo) , moderated by Texas Tribune co-founder and CEO Evan Smith.  There was some very interesting discussion related to Texas Public Schools. Full video of Evan Smith's 1/19 conversation with state Reps. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, andDrew Darby, R-San Angelo, on the campus of Howard College in San Angelo. view article arw

Patrick school choice announcement may come on Tuesday? - js - AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says expanding school choice is a top priority during this legislative session, and while no plan has emerged one advocate says “something monumental” may be coming soon. Randan Steinhauser, co-founder of Texans for Education Opportunity, which advocates for school choice, said she expects a proposal for education savings accounts that will give parents grants — loaded onto debit cards — which they may spend on state-approved, education-related expenses including private school tuition.  Steinhauser said she expects an announcement from Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott as early as Tuesday, when they participate in a rally held as part of National School Choice Week. view article arw

Both David Young, superintendent of the Abilene Independent School District, and Joey Light, superintendent at Wylie ISD, expressed concern about the state's public school funding system, which was ruled constitutional by the Texas Supreme Court in May.  Young said he is of the opinion that the system may not see any reform during the regular session and that the subject may be addressed during a special session, if it's tackled at all.  What's more, he said, the lack of progress may not be limited to the funding of schools. view article arw

A Texas Tech system official said university leaders are encouraged a recommended budget from the Texas House includes $5.7 million for a proposed veterinary school in Amarillo, despite Tech officials announcing last month that the plan was “on pause.” view article arw

A lot of work to be done

January 2008:30 AM

The 85th Texas Legislature opened Jan. 10, and probably not a lot of work got done because of the fanfare. It was a day to take it all in for our new folks in Austin — state Sen. Dawn Buckingham and state Reps. Stan Lambert and Mike Lang. But soon enough, it's right to work. There is much work to be done. view article arw

Committee on Education: Taylor Larry Chair, Lucio Eddie, Jr. Vice Chair, Bettencourt Paul, Campbell Donna,, Bryan Hughes , Kel Seliger,  Van Taylor, Carlos Uresti,  West Royce view article arw

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday further brought the battle lines over the “bathroom bill” into focus, saying lawmakers should be “very careful” about doing anything that makes the state less economically competitive. “There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success,” Straus said in a speech to the Texas Association of Business, which has vocally opposed the legislation. “We want to continue that success, and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”  The remarks amounted to Straus’ most dour yet on Senate Bill 6, which would require transgender people to use restrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on “biological sex.” It also would pre-empt local ordinnces that protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. view article arw

AUSTIN — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, before a friendly business audience, blasted the state Senate's bathroom bill Wednesday as a potential turn-off to skilled workers the state needs and a burden for a Texas economy already slowed by reduced oil drilling. In a direct challenge to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the Senate, Straus said the legislation to restrict transgender Texans to restrooms that correspond to their gender at birth at schools and government buildings is misguided and could injure Texas' stunning economic success of recent decades.  "People from where I come from get concerned about anything that could slow down our overall job-creating machine," Straus, a San Antonio Republican, said at a legislative conference sponsored by the Texas Association of Business.(paywalled) view article arw

In their first-day numbers, the Texas Legislature's two chambers didn’t even agree on the size of the current budget. The House baked in some supplemental expenses that the Senate left that out. view article arw

AUSTIN — The Texas Legislature's two chambers, both Republican-controlled but different in outlook, began this session's budget tussle Tuesday by issuing conflicting signals. While both initial budget drafts covered the $2.7 billion cost of surging enrollment in Texas public schools, the Senate GOP leadership's version left $1.3 billion in available funds unspent and cut non-school spending by 1.5 percent across the board  House Republican chiefs' version, meanwhile, spent $4 billion more in general-purpose state revenue than Comptroller Glenn Hegar said last week would be available. view article arw

Texas House and Senate leaders are starting out the legislative session nearly $8 billion apart according in dueling budget proposals released Tuesday. Among the sticking points: spending on public education and border security.   Texas Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson on Tuesday proposed a $213.4 billion two-year base budget.  An hour later, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus outlined the lower chamber’s base budget, which included $221.3 billion over two years. The nearly $8 billion difference between the chambers — about $5 billion of which comes from state revenue — offers a starting point for leaders to begin negotiating how to spread limited funds this legislative session. view article arw

One Texas lawmaker’s bill, if passed during the 2017 legislative session, stands to derail school choice options for failing campuses by taking them down a progressive community schools path and bypassing existing options that include re-purposing a campus as a public charter school. view article arw

Buffalo ISD Superintendant Lacy Freeman has taken another step forward in his drive to get the State of Texas to reform an arbitrary formula that punishes small schools with less than 300 square miles of area. The 1970 formula deprives Buffalo students of $800,000 per year in state funds.  view article arw

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas legislature this session will decide if taxpayer funds should help families pay for private school and home school supplies. Between the 2015 and 2017 legislative sessions, a select group of House members looked into the issue and highlighted what could be the key issue in the debate: accountability. view article arw

Democrats attacked Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, calling her unfit for the job during a contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday evening, while Republicans defended her as a bold reformer who would disrupt the status quo in U.S. education.  DeVos told skeptical senators that she looked forward to working with them to improve the nation’s schools. But she sidestepped several issues important to Democrats and their allies, declining to take a position on whether guns belong in schools or to commit to upholding the Obama administration’s aggressive approach to handling sexual assault on college campuses, and she called Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (D-Vt.) ideas about free college “interesting.” view article arw

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday pitched the "bathroom bill" to the Texas business community, which has vocally opposed the effort to regulate bathroom use. Making his case for the "bathroom bill" to Texas business leaders, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Tuesday that Senate Bill 6 would have a narrow focus, and he urged them to listen to parents "just concerned about the safety of their children."   Paxton spoke about SB 6 during a conference held by the Texas Association of Business. The bill, a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on "biological sex." view article arw

Drop the puck. The Texas Senate and the Texas House have done their big reveal on the state budget — more of a ring-and-run in a Capitol giving most of its work week to a national holiday and a Trump inauguration — and they are billions of dollars apart. view article arw

With the 85th Texas Legislative Session now underway, our policymakers have taken up the hardest task in public policy: crafting and implementing solutions to the problems facing our state. Or so we think. With the rise of social media analytics, we can measure the priorities of everyday Texans and compare them with the priorities of Texas legislators view article arw

It’s no surprise that money is on the minds of most in educational circles when it comes to this year’s meeting of the Texas Legislature. view article arw

After the pomp and circumstance and calls for unity of the first day died down, legislators resumed debate over key bills and set goals for the 85th session of the Texas Legislature.  view article arw

Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) joined his fellow senators and representatives of the House to open the 85th Legislative Session on Jan. 10. During an interview at his Jacksonville office on Jan. 13, Nichols addressed proposed legislation that could affect education, transportation, water and property tax, amongst other hot button topics. view article arw

Almost 6,000 Texas students who failed one or two of their STAAR tests were still able to graduate in 2015.  Kel Seliger’s bill would allow students to continue to graduate through committees if they’ve failed the STAAR.  Some students say the graduation committees have allowed them to move on to college.  A state law that has allowed thousands of high school students to bypass state standardized testing requirements to graduate is set to expire in September.  Kel Seliger, the Republican state senator from Amarillo who originally proposed the law, has filed a bill that would keep the policy in place permanently. (paywalled) view article arw

Ask state lawmakers about the importance of education and its funding, and they say little else compares. Ask if the Legislature is willing to reform the state's school funding to make sure all schools are treated equitably this year, as urged by the Texas Supreme Court, and they say don't hold your breath. view article arw

While state lawmakers weighed a tight budget against a school finance system sorely in need of repairs, educators across the state balked at the Texas Education Agency's new rating system for schools. While state lawmakers weighed a tight budget against a school finance system sorely in need of repairs, educators across the state balked at the Texas Education Agency's new rating system for schools. Here's the story:The current school finance system is held together by a number of short-term fixes that have not been updated or reformed in decades. The Texas Supreme Court upheld the funding system as constitutional in May, and at the same time put the onus on state lawmakers to reform it — but few believe a major overhaul will come without a court order. view article arw

State shorting schools in funding

January 1608:25 AM

Welcome to the start of the 85th session. I know that you have much on your mind, including individual goals and, of course, supporting the continued prosperity of our state. No doubt, as it has been in so many previous sessions, public school accountability will be an issue discussed over the next 140 days. As you probably know, Texas has struggled for decades to find an accountability system that meets the needs and desires of competing interests. It has been quite a challenge to craft a system that is simultaneously easy to understand; is meaningful to teachers, parents and principals about where schools can improve; doesn’t simply punish poverty; and doesn’t declare some schools a failure to satisfy the goals of those who would privatize our public schools. view article arw

A new report on El Paso’s educational attainment levels lays out the difficult work ahead for the city to be economically competitive in the coming decades. view article arw

Education leaders across Texas have called a new letter grading system for schools and districts lots of things:  unfair, misleading, morale-crushing, and in need of repeal.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called it something else Wednesday: here to stay.  "We're not repealing A through F," Patrick told state lawmakers, policy wonks and others at an Austin conference sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.  Patrick also said that the spate of D- and F-rated schools shows the need for another plan he's pushing: voucher-like programs that let parents spend taxpayer dollars on private schools. At least 200 school districts — including DeSoto, Highland Park and Richardson — have called on the state to repeal the letter grades.(paywalled) view article arw

When Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick unveiled an anti-transgender bathroom bill last week, he predicted a “tough fight.”  If Day 2 of the 2017 legislative session was any indication, it may have been an understatement.  Under cross-examination about Senate Bill 6 from the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith on Wednesday morning, Patrick was put on the defensive and appeared to stumble.   view article arw

It’s no surprise that some of our current leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick or President-elect Donald Trump are pushing school voucher programs. They’ve been telling us that was their intention for years. Abandoning our neighborhood public schools, however, isn’t something the vast majority of Texans want. While political salesmen like Patrick and Trump and the organizations that support them like to wax poetically about supporting “school choice” programs, such as taxpayer savings grants and education savings accounts (ESAs), these programs are nothing more than vouchers. Unlike real choice programs that help families find the best fit for their children, the true purpose of every voucher program is to decrease the state’s responsibility to properly fund a quality education for every child while directing education dollars that are spent to political supporters. view article arw

Full video of Evan Smith's 1/11 conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. view article arw

We all want an education system that delivers a high-quality education to all children. Ensuring quality requires holding schools accountable for results, but that raises a crucial question: accountable to whom?   A few years ago, as the Arizona Legislature was considering expanding its pioneering education savings account (ESA) program, the mother of a child with special needs who benefited from an ESA listened in disbelief as critics described the program as “unaccountable.”  With an ESA, parents can customize their child’s education. Instead of enrolling their child at his or her assigned school, they can use a portion of the funds allocated for their child to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, educational therapy, online courses and more. However, because ESA parents are not subject to the same top-down regulations as district schools, opponents frequently claim that they “lack accountability.” view article arw