Thursday, February 20, 2014

Advocay and HB 5 - How Important Is It?

By now, you should start to get a feel for the game changing elements of House Bill 5.  Whether changing graduation requirements and creating five new endorsement opportunities for incoming 9th graders in school year 2014-2015, or reducing the number of EOC exams for high school students, or requiring that local boards establish formal community and student engagement efforts, HB 5 has altered the public education landscape in Texas.  And while a large part of the credit goes to a group of superintendents led by Mr. H. D. Chambers of Alief ISD and the tireless efforts of the House Public Education committee, chaired by Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, the reality is that advocacy on the part of trustees has had an enormous impact on decisions made in Austin.

According to Rep. Aycock, "The legislative intent of HB 5 was borne out of campaigns, and ruminated not just through this (83rd) session, but prior sessions as well."  So while school finance has often dominated the discussions about public education, in part due to the trial in Judge Dietz's courtroom, trustees across the state have been working with their local legislators to convey concerns they had about the loss of local control, and the often unfunded mandates imposed upon them by the State Board of Education and the legislature. 

There has been considerable debate surrounding how we maintain a system of flexibility, rigor and relevance, while striving to address the needs and interests of the more than 5 million Texas public education students.  Make no mistake about it --- as trustees, you have the responsibility to ensure that the changes brought about under HB 5 do not "water down" the rigor or relevance of what you do in your district.  And I fully expect that the vast majority of trustees understand that with increased local control comes accountability to do so for all stakeholders, including students, parents, staff, and the community at large. 

So while HB 5 does grant increased local control and flexibility to boards, it does not diminish the obligation of all of us to continue to advocate for our students.  Without question, there will be areas of HB 5 that don't accomplish what they were intended to.  As trustees, you must be willing to communicate your concerns to your representatives; no one else will do it for you.  Where things are working well, let them know that as well ... they do like hearing good news!  And they do want to hear from you!

We have achieved some of what we have sought for years with increased local control and flexibility.  It's up to us now to make certain that we act in a manner consistent with the intent of HB 5, and that we use this newly granted authority to make responsible decisions that favorably impact student success.  And that's why we serve.  The greatest risk is doing nothing!

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