Monday, June 8, 2015

Reflections on the 84th Legislature - Part One

As we look back on the 84th Legislative Session, we can now assess whether this group of legislators focused on the needs of public education.  Sadly, what we find is that the House did, but the Senate seemed more preoccupied with issues that they considered of greater importance, including open carry, private schools, vouchers, etc.  And the actions of both Chambers are clearly a reflection of leadership.

Rather than continue to hammer away at how leadership supported or didn't support public education, I think it is time to reflect on some of the hits and misses of this session.  Among the hits was funding, although at a somewhat modest level, of pre-K education.  I know that some have questioned whether pre-K has merit, including challenges that ultimately offended pastors and clergy across the state.  Speaking on a personal level, as a grandfather of a 4 year old and a 6 year old, there is no question in my mind that both are and were far better equipped to enter kindergarten than if they had not experienced the many disciplines, including social interaction, that a pre-K program afforded them.

A second, although not an "out of the park" hit, is the recognition of the need for incremental funding of public education.  To their credit, both chambers recognized the importance of funding enrollment growth, although total funding may not keep pace with enrollment growth.  This benefits not only those who are a part of that enrollment growth, but also those who have been in the system since fewer resources have to be diverted or allocated across a larger number of students. 

Although the House, under the leadership of Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, actually discussed legislation that would have significantly increased funding, the Chairman felt that the legislation (HB 1789) had little chance of passage in the Senate.  Sadly, the withdrawal of this bill left a void in what had been at least a modest hope for public school districts.  Nevertheless, additional resources approved as part of the budget will offer some opportunity beyond what public education had going into the session.  And now the courts await.

And what about another bill that fell short of what had been pushed by public education and other groups, namely to look at individual campus assessments and how those are derived?  On the positive side, HB 2804 did at least reduce the importance of STAAR test results to a point where the accountability tests account for only 55% of the overall rating.   But the negative for me is the imposition of an A-F rating at individual campuses.  See my prior blogs on this subject.

I could go on ... and will ... in a subsequent blog.

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