Top 10 Education Stories

Edukayshun 'r' us

IDEA opponents (r) show their Eastside Panther spirit.
IDEA opponents (r) show their Eastside Panther spirit. (Photo by John Anderson)

1) Bad IDEA The community doesn't want it, the board was split, and the research shows it's a weak proposal. Yet Austin ISD saw fit to hand Eastside Memorial High School and Allan Elementary over to IDEA Public Schools to run as an in-district charter.

2) Facilities Fail AISD's Facility Master Plan was launched as a massive exercise in public consultation to guide property use and investment strategy for the next decade. It morphed into a portfolio of radical academic changes authored by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, and no one really knows how that happened.

3) Cuts First or First Cuts At the beginning of the 82nd legislative session, there were two options: Raise taxes, or decimate school funds. By the end, it was clear no new money was coming, so lawmakers spent days discussing which combination of the terrible rival plans (authored by House Public Education Committee Chair Rob Eissler and Senate counterpart Florence Shapiro) they would inflict.

4) UT Media Studies The Longhorn Network was supposed to be a cash cow for the University of Texas and ESPN. Instead, it turned into a running joke, nearly killing the Big 12, sending Texas A&M to the SEC, and featuring a statewide audience that on a good day may number in the dozens.

5) No Gold STAAR at TEA Teachers had been expecting the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness for five years. Yet by the beginning of the school year, the Texas Education Agency had failed to provide even the simplest outlines, leaving them teaching to a test no one had seen.

6) Ethics Classes Needed UT's Law School found itself in the court of public opinion in December when Dean Larry Sager resigned amid allegations surrounding gender pay inequality, huge forgivable loans to faculty, and a $500,000 payment to himself.

7) Remedial Math Thousands of students depend on the need-based TEXAS Grants to complete college. So when a huge financial miscalculation by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board left thousands without the cash they deserved, it was more than just an abstract math problem.

8) Texas History Lesson "I am besieged, by a hundred or more of the Legislators under Rick Perry." With these words, echoing the famous Alamo letter, Perrin-Whitt Consolidated ISD Superintendent John Kuhn reframed the education finance and accountability debate and became an instant public school hero.

9) Sound Science The State Board of Education has often been seen as a tool of the fringe right, but this year it refused to approve textbooks from Holt McDougal until the books treated evolution as fact. As the Texas Freedom Network put it, "That sound you hear is the collective heads of the anti-science lobby exploding."

10) Valero Devalued As school districts bled, petrochemical giant Valero tried to add insult to injury by asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to reinterpret its rules and create a massive tax break pillaged straight from school coffers. Even the TCEQ could not swallow that bitter a pill and ultimately rejected Valero's request.

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Top 10, IDEA, facility master plan, AISD, Meria Carstarphen, 82nd legislative session, Longhorn Network, STAAR, TEXAS Grants, John Kuhn, State Board of Education, textbooks, Valero, Holt McDougal

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