Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Texas AFT Legislative Update - House Bill 5

An update on HB 5, courtesy of Texas AFT: 

“The Texas Senate on Monday afternoon passed its own version of HB 5, the bill to cut the number of state end-of-course tests to five from the current 15 and to open new pathways to graduation. Some 29 amendments to the bill were considered in three hours of floor debate, some of it fairly contentious, but the bill passed 31 to zero. The outcome was testament to the profound unpopularity of the current state testing regime, which many parents, educators, and concerned citizens see as a mechanism to enrich the testing industry, not students’ education.

“Key amendments included one by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) that would suspend campus performance ratings when insufficient funds are provided to help at-risk students struggling to pass state exams. Even though this judgment call would be left to the commissioner of education, who is unlikely to determine that funding is insufficient, the West amendment passed by a narrow margin of 17 to 14. 

“Another West amendment ruled out use of an A-to-F rating system for campuses, retaining the current campus ratings of exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable, and academically unacceptable. The effect would be to bar a planned A-to-F rating system already being put in place by the commissioner of education.  In a compromise with Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), this West amendment does allow the use of the A-to-F system for district as opposed to campus ratings. (Don’t ask us to find the principle that justifies the different rating scheme for districts. It is all about the political pressures of the moment, not sound policy.) 

“Two other important amendments were added by Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth). One of them eased the rigidity of a requirement that students take Algebra II in order to be eligible for college financial aid or for automatic university admission based on class rank. The Davis amendment said a student could take a locally developed, commissioner-approved course equivalent to Algebra II and still qualify for state grants and automatic admission.  The other noteworthy Davis amendment prohibits use of state assessments in ways that have not been demonstrated to be valid and reliable for the intended purpose.” 

Urgent Action Items! 
  1. Contact your House Rep AND House Public Education Committee to vote NO on Senate Bill 1718. This bill would create the "Texas Achievement District" and allow public schools to be taken away from local school districts and given to private charter operators after three consecutive years of low performance. Please remember that Texas schools may be labeled low performing if as few as one or two students fail in a single testing area. A diverse high school may have 31 testing standards to meet - pass 30 and miss one and you are called "failing" by current state law, which is much harsher than federal law. This bill would completely remove schools from local control and is similar to a Louisiana law that has resulted in the lowest performing district in that state, with massive charter failures affecting thousands of students. Current law provides 5-6 years for improvement, and mandates strong required actions and resources to help struggling schools make the grade."

Senate Bill 1718 by Sen. Royce West

Bad schools would be placed in new statewide district under Senate bill-Click Here

UPDATE: A FIX-IT DISTRICT  - "The worst schools in Texas could be placed in a special statewide school district to help turn those campuses around under legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday.The measure by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would establish the Texas Achievement School District to operate schools that have been rated low-performing for two consecutive years ... The bill passed on a 26-5 vote and now heads to the House." Terrence Stutz - Dallas Morning News