In Search of a New Agenda
What to look for in the 2007 Texas Legislature
Won't Vouch for It: Education
Education has been center stage so long at the Capitol that it seems like the fat lady has sung two arias, a cantata, and taken three curtain calls. They may have to use a hook to get her off the stage. Yet when it comes to general mayhem and high drama, lawmakers can find plenty to file in the arena of education, whether it's a bill on cheerleader performances or a solution to equitable school finance.
Dozens of education bills already have been filed this session. Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, was early out of the chute, filing his voucher legislation (HB 18), like clockwork, for consideration. (The House has been trending away, not toward, voucher support.) Other bills tackle bullying, early-childhood education, vouchers for autism, and the top-10% rule for admission to the state's public universities.
Early press has come from Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro's proposal (not yet filed) to replace the exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills with end-of-course exams. Other suggestions in the Senate's interim report include stricter standards for alternative schools for students with disciplinary problems and, for charter schools, including the ability to revoke charters of nonperforming schools. The Senate also supports tougher standards on math and science instruction.
The House Public Education Committee will see a change in leadership this session. Moderate Diane Patrick defeated Chair Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, a longtime voucher advocate, in a bitter showdown during the Republican primary. Craddick has yet to name a new chair to the committee. Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, a key member of the committee, says he'd like to revisit the state's funding formulas for education, including the additional funding for areas such as transportation, special education, and bilingual education. His own particular interest is the way the state is using student data. Eissler would prefer to see an accountability system that makes more sense and is more easily understood by parents, teachers, and students. Teachers and administrators need to know and understand the 10 years' worth of data the agency has gathered, he said.
And to add more to the mix, the Governor's Business Council, fronted by President George W. Bush favorite Sandy Kress, has made its own list of suggestions. Those include more alignment between high school and college, better teacher preparation programs, more incentive pay, additional principal training, and the ability to remove nonperforming teachers from the classroom sooner. Kimberly Reeves