Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Are We There Yet?

With the recent editorial by the Dallas Morning News suggesting that the Lt. Governor move beyond his agenda focused on vouchers, combined with the article previously published by Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, it’s obvious that the importance of public education is recognized by increasing number of people across the state.  The challenge to this point in time has been to get the conversation started; that objective has now been achieved to the point that the difficult task of gaining traction is at least underway.

In my role as president of a public education advocacy group, I get more excited every day that not only has the advocacy train left the station, but it is about to become a bullet train!  And more passengers get on board at every station!

What is it that is helping us gain traction?  First and foremost, while we as public education advocates were disappointed when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that school finance meets the “minimum constitutional requirement”, the words that they used in their ruling clearly got the attention of everyone involved in public education.  But this is not just a finance discussion.

With apologies that I am only citing a couple of examples of leaders in the advocacy movement, look at the work done by Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA).  Through their efforts, the required number of end-of-course exams was reduced from 15 to 5.  And they continue to be outstanding advocates.  In fact, just today, I complete a TEA-sponsored survey about ESSA as a result of an email notification from TAMSA.

Or how about the outstanding work being done by Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children?  Rev. Johnson is working closely with the faith community to get them to embrace public schools in the communities they serve.  He is also doing phenomenal work with Dr. Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of Dallas ISD, in looking at the needs of specific campuses in DISD.  If there is any question about the impact he is having as a public education advocate, the recent House Public Education committee hearing in which he was challenged by Rep. Bohac was a great example of Rev. Johnson’s passion and commitment to public education.

Speaking of the House Public Education committee, that committee is doing a wonderful job of assessing the opportunities and needs of the more than 5.3 million (and growing) public education students.  While Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock is retiring, it was clear from the hearing that there is significant support for public education in the House. 

Our kids used to ask us, “Are we there yet”?  I previously worked with an individual whose response to his kids was, “We’re close but grandma has a long driveway”.  We are not really that close and we certainly have a long driveway in front of us, but there can be little question that the collaborative efforts of public education advocates are making an impact.  As a group, we must (and will) continue to make education a priority.

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