Naked City

Fuzzy Democracy at the SBOE

Over strong opposition from teachers and teacher groups, the State Board of Education voted last week to allow college graduates to become certified teachers while avoiding both conventional and alternative certification programs. Actually, the SBOE voted 8-7 to reject the new policy – approved earlier this year by the State Board of Educator Certification (on a 5-4-1 vote) under heavy pressure from Gov. Perry's office – but a two-thirds vote of the 15 members was required to veto the change. Under the plan, college graduates can become immediately certified to teach in grades 8-12 if they have a degree in the subject they are hired to teach and they pass a state test. Pending a confirmation by the certification board April 2, the rules will go into effect this summer.

Lubbock board member Bob Craig described the new policy as a contract full of "loopholes," because it includes no standards for training or accountability. More than one critic pointed out that the state is moving backward in teacher-training standards at the same time it claims to be moving forward on student-testing accountability, but supporters of the change, especially administrators, respond bluntly, "There are too few teachers, and we need more of 'em." In anticipation of federal requirements for "highly qualified" teachers that take effect in 2006, districts are scrambling to manufacture new teachers who will meet that standard – at least on paper.

The change is opposed by all four major state teacher groups – the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the Texas Federation of Teachers, the Texas State Teachers Association, and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. But the new rules (or lack of them) are supported by the Texas Associations of School Boards and of School Administrators, with the backing of the Texas Association of Business, whose director Bill Hammond said it was a way to increase the number of available teachers while restraining costs.

When similar proposals were rejected by the Legislature last spring, Gov. Perry and House Public Education Chair Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, took the plan to the SBEC, which approved it under heavy political pressure but without an actual majority. Thereafter, opponents tried to derail the plan at the SBOE by questioning the legality of the adoption. When those concerns were overruled by TEA staff attorneys, the board still voted to reject the rule – but insufficiently to kill it. That means the new policy will likely be installed despite rejection at the Lege, no majority at the SBEC, and rejection at the SBOE. (See Bill Hammond, above: Some votes count more than others.)

Commented ATPE executive director Doug Rogers, "The mission of the SBOE is to ensure our children receive a quality education, and today they chose not to accept that mission. The members of this board are going to have to face parents in their districts and explain to them how untrained teachers will help their children learn."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Public Schools, State Board of Education, State Board of Educator Certification, SBOE, SBEC, Association of Texas Professional Educators, ATPE, TSTA, Texas Association of Business, Bill Hammond, Texas State Teachers' Association

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