Monday, February 17, 2014

So How Did House Bill 5 Become a Reality?

So How Did House Bill 5 Become a Reality?

So now that we have started to look at some of the requirements of House Bill 5, let's step back and understand how this legislation evolved.  It's a great story of engagement and advocacy at multiple levels across the State of Texas.

When a group of superintendents led by H.D. Chambers, superintendent of Alief ISD, developed a white paper expressing concerns about what they saw as shortcomings in the legislature-mandated “4X4” curriculum, that document noted that there are perhaps as many as 30% of Texas high school students who will not plan to attend college for a variety of reasons.  The belief of this group of superintendents was that the 4X4 was a “one size fits all” approach and, in fact, may be a contributing factor to the overall dropout rate.

In a conversation with Mr. Chambers, he acknowledged that providing 5 million students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life would be easy ... if they were all the same!  Given the fact that they are not the same, he and his peers saw a need to rethink the notion of college readiness, suggesting that local districts required greater flexibility and local control than they then had.  Recognizing that student needs and desires were constantly evolving, and that the 4X4 offered a limited perspective relating to career and technology courses, he saw an opportunity to address this changing environment. 

Mr. Chambers and others set out to change the way that public education is delivered in the State of Texas.  Among those he approached was Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, chairman of the House Education Committee.  Through a series of discussions, Mr. Chambers and Rep. Aycock were able to settle on a set of considerations and criteria that ultimately formed the framework for House Bill 5.  Rep. Aycock was the primary sponsor of this important piece of legislation.

As a former school board trustee, Rep. Aycock was very interested in taking action to return control to local boards.  He also acknowledged the role that local trustee advocacy has played in considering the options.  Quoting Rep. Aycock, “The legislative intent of HB 5 was borne out of campaigns, and ruminated not just through this session, but prior sessions as well”.  What that suggests is that the advocacy efforts of trustees across the state are being heard.  For that, all of us should be proud!

While recognizing the need for local control, Rep. Aycock also expressed concerns that the State of Texas had placed too much emphasis on testing, and that there is a need for more vocational opportunities, as well as greater flexibility at the local level.  He, too, shared a belief that communities and students needed to be more involved in defining how programs and curriculum are delivered at the local level, and defined a need to more closely engage community and business partners in understanding the workforce demands in local communities.

It was with this as a backdrop that Rep. Aycock sponsored House Bill 5, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry on June 10, 2013.  This is landmark legislation for public education students, and a great opportunity for trustees to demonstrate their ability to not only understand the needs of their local districts, but to act responsibly in ensuring that locally developed curriculum meets the needs of the greatest number of students.

The greatest risk now lies in doing nothing, leaving the door open for the legislature to act where local boards do not.  Act now and act responsibly!  Your students are counting on you to succeed.

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