Bill of the Week

Bill by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez would support community schools

Bill of the Week

House Bill 1891

Author: Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin
Filed: Feb. 25

For years, the self-titled education reform movement has waffled about parent choice, braying that charters and vouchers are the only way to save struggling public schools. But what if there were a way to give students what they want and need, without dropping an educational bombshell in neighborhoods, or backdoor privatizing campuses? There is, and it's called community schooling. That's when the whole community – teachers, families, nonprofits, local government – work together to make their campus succeed.

Pretty much everyone who has been paying attention agrees community schools are a great idea, one that brings people together – a rarity in the searing and caustic environment of education politics. The problem to date is that there is no set definition in Texas law of what a community school is, so when Austin ISD worked with neighborhood groups to turn Travis Heights Elementary into an in-district charter, they only used that term because that was the only one available.

Eddie Rodriguez's HB 1891 sets that definition: A community school would be any K-12 public school that "partners with one or more community-based organizations to coordinate academic, social, and health services to reduce barriers to learning and improve the quality of education for students in the community." Vitally, the bill sets community school status as an alternative to state-enforced closure and reconstitution. Meanwhile, partner bill HB 1892 establishes a grant program to help schools write plans and hire a community schools organizer.

Rodriguez's name may top the bill, but this is a truly bipartisan measure, with Houston Democrat Sylvester Turner, and Republicans Marsha Farney of Georgetown and Gary VanDeaver of New Boston, all parents to this measure. In a joint statement with Rodriguez, Farney said, "This model gives our struggling schools a better chance to improve and help our students achieve academic success."

This is smart political jujitsu, turning the language of parental trigger bills and voucher advocates on its head. As Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria explained, "Community schools provide genuine local control and parental involvement." Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro said they provide "a proven alternative" to Texas' punitive cycle of shutting and repurposing campuses, while Education Austin President Ken Zarifis called them "one of the best ways to ensure student success."

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 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  

More Eddie Rodriguez
Campaign Launched to Replace Nixed County Funds
Campaign Launched to Replace Nixed County Funds
With friends like Gov. Greg Abbott, who needs enemies?

Mary Tuma, Feb. 10, 2017

Will Trump Get Out the Latino Vote?
Will Trump Get Out the Latino Vote?
Eddie Rodriguez previews his upcoming Texas Tribune Festival panel

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 23, 2016

More Austin ISD
AISD Picks a Search Team for New Superintendent
AISD Picks a Search Team for New Superintendent
Picking the pickers

Maggie Q. Thompson, Feb. 3, 2023

Superintendent Says AISD Will Honor Staff Health Accommodations Through End of Year
Superintendent Says AISD Will Honor Staff Health Accommodations Through End of Year
Online or in person? AISD readies for "all of the above"

Beth Sullivan, Oct. 30, 2020

More Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Rep. Molly White wants to protect Texas from the UN's sustainability agenda

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 27, 2015

Bill of the Week
Bill of the Week
Senate Bill 487: Ellis files bill to help convicted receive new DNA tests

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 20, 2015


Eddie Rodriguez, Travis Heights Elementary, Sylvester Turner, Marsha Farney, Gary VanDeaver, HB 1891, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, Community Schools, School Choice, Austin ISD, 84th Legislature

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

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