On Friday, December 19, as public schools let out early across the state for the holidays, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released dismal findings — 1,199 campuses statewide were identified as low performing schools because of poor test scores or unacceptable ratings on the 2015-16 Public Education Grant (PEG) list. That translated into more than 736,000 students who attend failing schools.
The PEG program was started in 1995 to allow parents whose children attended under performing schools to request a transfer to schools in other districts, according to the TEA. They can apply for inter- or intra- district transfers, which means either a school in another district or in their home district, just another campus.
However, not all students who apply are accepted. School districts can refuse the enrollments even though the state provides an additional 10% per-pupil funding to those districts that take PEG students.
Each year, the TEA provides a list of PEG-designated schools to districts, By February 1, districts must notify each parent of a student in the district assigned to attend a school on the PEG list. Based on the February list, parents may request a transfer for the following school year.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the total number of schools on the 2015-16 PEG list jumped more than a third from last year (892) and was two-and -a-half times the number of campuses (456) singled out for low performance in 2012 under different criteria.
Despite the number of eligible students, only a small number actually transfer from failing campuses on the list because the state does not provide funding for transportation.
Debbie Ratcliffe, TEA Director of Communications told the Dallas Morning News, “The lack of transportation has always taken the transfer option off the table for some families.”
Last school year, 1,694 students from PEG schools transferred to other campuses, the Dallas Morning News noted. Schools land on the PEG list when 50% or more of their students fail the annual State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) in two of the past three years or when rated “Improvement Required” in the state accountability ratings of 2013 or 2014, according to the TEA.
Ratcliffe pointed to STAAR results being flat again this year and an adjustment period to the revised curriculum standards as the reasons for the “compounded the number of schools on the list.”
The Legislature is expected to review the PEG program in its regular session that begins in January.
The program opens the door for the topic of choice. The PEG program may be one way to maintain choice within the public school framework by transferring to another school or area district but not leaving the system.
The list has made the social media rounds since its release. Anti-school choice advocacy group Texas Kids Can’t Wait posted the results as a sign that pro-school choice legislators will attempt to shut the schools down and replace them by charter schools. That remains to be seen.
While they have legitimate concerns about privatizing schools, the crisis of failing public schools that fail more and more students each year is not the fault of the pro-school choice movement.
While they have legitimate concerns about privatizing schools, the crisis affecting traditional public education has its own special interest groups, corporatization and federal mandates that are failing Texas students.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.