“Veteran Classroom Teacher Grades Texas Legislature”
by Donna Garner
Because many of the education bills up before the 82nd Texas Legislature (both Regular and Special) were very long, drawn-out bills, I could not analyze each and every provision in them; but based upon my 33 years as a classroom teacher, I have analyzed the legislative decisions that I believe will impact Texas public school classrooms the most.
My final grade for the legislative session is calculated in the last paragraph of this article:
SB 6 — GOOD PARTS OF THIS BILL THAT PASSED
*Numerical grade — 96
SB 6 did include the funding for the new English Language Arts, Supplementary Science, and Pre-K textbooks (i.e., instructional materials). SB 6 also contains a different way for schools to expedite their textbook orders but could slow down the initial shipments of these new textbooks to the schools this fall. As soon as the Texas Education Agency and the schools learn the new way of purchasing their textbooks under SB 6, I believe the books will flow to the schools.
SB 6 also makes sure that the STAAR/End-of-Course tests will proceed on time. This is a good thing because it will force teachers to move AWAYfrom the old TAKS tests built upon the miserable TEKS standards and INTO the new-and-improved English / Language Arts / Reading, Science, and Social Studies standards (TEKS).
The three new standards documents (with Math presently in the pipeline) will require teachers to teach phonics, grammar, spelling, penmanship, expository/persuasive/research writing, all sides of leading scientific theories (including creation), and an emphasis on the primary documents and heroes/heroines of our historical past.
The new-and improved standards documents emphasize knowledge-based, academic content; and the STAAR/End-of-Course tests will contain a high majority of questions that have objectively scored answers.
Through the passage of SB 6, we can be assured that authentic education reform in the public schools of Texas will proceed as planned.
Please read my article entitled “Texas Legislators, Let Education Reform Begin” published on 6.22.11:
SB 6 — BAD PARTS OF THIS BILL THAT PASSED
*Numerical grade — 50
Will Lutz of Lone Star Report wrote two excellent pieces leading up to the SB 6 Conference Report vote. Lutz explained that the elected State Board of Education (SBOE) is a counter-balance to the various leftwing entities that want to take over our schools and why the authority of the SBOE over instructional materials should have been left in place.
Unfortunately, SB 6 as passed allows open-source materials to go straight into classrooms without the oversight of the elected SBOE and is in direct violation of the platform of the Republican Party of Texas.
Open-source materials are those that can be written by college professors, many of whom represent a far-left agenda. Under SB 6, the elected SBOE members can adopt and review the open-source materials but cannot reject any of them. This waters down the authority of our elected SBOE members to keep poor instructional materials out of classrooms.
Yes, open-source materials must include the SBOE-adopted standards (TEKS); but with no authority for the SBOE to reject the materials, the publishers can include anything over and above the TEKS that they so choose. This is very troubling when we consider the world in which we live today and the large number of leftist groups that would love to get into the minds of our children.
6.26.11 — “Analysis: Why SBOE Authority Matters” by Will Lutz —
6.26.11 — “Conference Report for SB 6 Violates GOP Platform” — by Will Lutz
HB 1 – SB 1 — GOOD VOTE
*Numerical grade — 90
When the legislative session started, the liberal interest groups wanted a $10 Billion increase in spending. The legislature ended up by passing a $172 Billion two-year budget that cut $15 Billion (a reduction of 8% from the current spending levels) and worked the formula gap down to $4 Billion.
Total money spent on public education increased $125.2 Million in actual dollars from the last budgeting cycle. The problem is that school districts have increased in enrollment since the last cycle, and they have had to cut the “fat” to have enough money left to educate their new students.
During the first year of the biennium, all schools will have to cut their budgets by 6%. In the second year of the biennium, the schools (according to per-student funding) that are at the upper end and some urban schools will have to absorb more of the $4 Billion reduction. As a last-minute concession, the legislature agreed to have an interim study of funding cuts for rural schools to see if they are having to bear too much of the budget-cutting load.
SB 1 CONFERENCE REPORT — GOOD VOTE
*Numerical grade — 75
One good thing that came out of the lengthy “standoff” on SB 1 is that the conservative House members were able to mount enough pressure to force the Speaker to call for an investigation of the Gulen Turkish charter schools.
However, the three safeguards were not passed and definitely should have been because all charter schools should be required to follow these guidelines:
1. Proof of U. S. citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top five highest-paid administrators. (Public ISD trustees must be U. S. citizens.)
2. Names, titles, and biographies posted online for all charter operator board members and top five highest-paid administrators.
3. Check registers posted online. (Over 70 % of local ISD dollars are online.)
Please go to my article “Gulen Turkish Charter Schools To Be Investigated by Texas Investigating Committee” published on 6.28.11:
FAR-LEFT DEMOCRAT REP. DONNA HOWARD’S AMENDMENT IN SB 2 KILLED — GOOD VOTE
*Numerical grade — 95
The amendment from Senate Bill 2 was killed that would have automatically redirected any Rainy Day Fund balance larger than $6.5 Billion back into the bottomless pit of the school budget. I am glad this amendment was stopped because with the dark days of fiscal uncertainty that lie ahead for our state and nation, we certainly do not need to use up our Rainy Day Fund now.
HB 2923 NOT PASSED — BAD VOTE
*Numerical grade — 50
This bill badly needed to be passed because it would have prevented local school districts from launching into the Obama administration’s federal takeover of the public schools through Common Core Standards and Race to the Top. The bill also would have prevented Texas public schools from participating in the very intrusive national database. Unfortunately, HB 2923 was never allowed out of Calendars and onto the floor of the House for a vote.
Please go to my article entitled “Protect Our Children from the Feds” that was published on 4.13.11:
SBOE REDISTRICTING MAP — REALLY BAD VOTE
*Numerical grade — 50
The State Board of Education redistricting map (to be in place for the next 10 years) is a disaster for the hard-working, principled conservative SBOE members. E118 was the SBOE redistricting map preferred by a majority of the SBOE members. E120 is the SBOE map drawn up and presented by Sen. Seliger to his committee at the very last minute so that the public and the SBOE members could not even see it ahead of time to oppose it. When the final vote was brought to the floor of the Senate, Seliger refused to allow E118 even to be presented for public debate. The Senators were given no alternative from which to choose, and the House concurred.
Please read my article entitled “Gov. PerrySeemingly Let Texans Down” published on 5.19.11:
HB 79 — POSTING OF TEN COMMANDMENTS IN SCHOOLS — KILLED IN COMMITTEE
*Numerical grade — 50
Unfortunately, Rep. Dan Flynn’s HB 79 never made it out of committee. His bill would have made it legal for the Ten Commandments to be posted in classrooms.
HB 33 — TAXPAYERS SAVINGS GRANT — DID NOT PASS
*Numerical grade — 95
The Taxpayers Savings Grant did not pass. This was a voucher bill, and I cannot support the use of taxpayers’ dollars for use by students going to private schools (e.g., Taxpayer Savings Grants) notbecause of the usual argument (“It would take taxpayers’ dollars away from public schools…”) but because if a private school takes one penny of public dollars, then that school would fall under the IDEA regulations (Special Education).
I am also afraid that if a private school takes one penny of public dollars, that school would have to follow the public schools’ curriculum. The reason parents put their children in a private school is because that private school can groom its curriculum around the values of that particular school.
I am afraid the Taxpayer Savings Grants would have ended up destroying the freedom that private schools enjoy. With the Obama administration taking over the public schools through Common Core Standards and Race to the Top, the idea of tying private schools to that federal agenda becomes all that much more frightening.
Please read my article entitled “Texas Must Not Be Trapped by Public Vouchers” published on 6.8.11:
MY FINAL GRADE FOR THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE
*Final grade — 72.33 — C-
As I look back over the education bills passed by the Texas 82nd Legislative Session, I would have to give the Texas Legislature a grade of 72.33 which on most grading scales would be a C-.
*Bio for Donna G. Garner
Donna Garner was an educator for over 33 years and was appointed by President Reagan and re-appointed by President George H. Bush to serve on the National Commission on Migrant Education.
Garner has been active in helping Texas develop new English / Language Arts / Reading standards and was a writer/researcher for Scott & White Hospital’s Worth the Wait abstinence education program. She was also the writer/consultant for an online tutorial to help students (ages 10 through 100) to learn English skills.
Garner is currently a researcher/author and is involved in political, social, and education issues.