Voucher Creep?

Appointment of Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond to state Task Force on Test Security raises eyebrows and red flags

Heads up, everybody: Texas Republicans may be on a losing streak in the courtroom, but one key GOP player just won an appointment to a state education committee with a shock-and-awe-sounding name – the Task Force on Test Security. That's a name every school voucher proponent should love, particularly with someone like Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond serving on the five-member committee charged with investigating testing irregularities at a number of school campuses across the state. Needless to say, Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley's appointment of Hammond raised eyebrows and red flags all around. One reason is because Hammond and his group support private-school vouchers, and public-education advocates believe the task force will serve as a vehicle toward privatization. Another reason is because the business group Hammond leads is under criminal indictment for its financial role in the 2002 legislative campaigns that gave Republicans the upper hand in the House, which subsequently tried to pass a school-voucher bill.

Commissioner Neeley said she created the task force after a data forensic study found evidence of cheating on standardized tests. It happens that the company that oversees standardized testing for the Texas Education AgencyPearson Educational Measurement – was also a subcontractor on the forensic study job that went to Utah-based Caveon Test Security. The TEA awarded Pearson the $279 million testing contract in June 2005 and handed Caveon and Pearson the $500,000 cheating contract one month later. During this same period of time, both Hammond and Pearson lobbyist Sandy Kress (the architect of the No Child Left Behind Act that brought us high-stakes testing) were engaged in some high-stakes lobbying on a school finance bill pending in a special session of the Legislature. The two were aggressively pushing legislation that would have established a series of unachievable "reform" mandates for public schools and made it easier for private companies to take over failing campuses. The measure failed, but the findings of the new task force could provide more ammunition for voucher supporters. In a statement last week, Hammond vowed: "As a member of this commission, I will work to see that aggressive action is taken to deal with past transgressions.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Supremes Say DeLay Must Stay on Ballot, Hammer Says Bowing Out

    Legal fight between state Republican and Democratic parties screeches to a halt with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's swift rejection of GOP's appeal of previous court rulings to keep DeLay on November ballot
  • WTP No. 4: Still migrating

    Stakeholders at city and county level struggle to catch up with City Council's decision about plant location

    Hutto Wastewater: Is Limmer at it again?

    LCRA site selection report for regional wastewater treatment plant outside Hutto transforms what might otherwise be routine battle into darker tale

    Cave Murder Update

    Judge denies motion to suppress evidence in murder of 23-year-old who was dismembered and left in the bathtub of a West Campus apartment last summer

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Amy Smith
Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014

Section 8 Reopens
Section 8 Reopens
Hurry up ... and wait!

Oct. 3, 2014

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bill HammondTask Force on Test Security, Bill Hammond, Texas Association of Business, Texas Education Agency, Shirley Neeley

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle