AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick opened a press conference on education by saying that nearly 150,000 students were trapped in over two hundred schools that were failing their students and parents. His remarks came at the beginning of a conference that featured members of the Senate Education Committee and other Texas State Senators who are sponsoring education bills.
“The future of Texas depends on us – reducing the dropout rate, making sure every student is ready for a career or college,” said Governor Patrick at Tuesday’s press conference, which was attended by Breitbart Texas. “Together we are going to lead the Senate and lead the state in continuing to reform education so that every student has the opportunity to live the Texas and American Dream.”
Governor Patrick said Texas must have more than a single shot plan. He said we must have a comprehensive e education reform plan.
School choice was not covered in Tuesday’s press conference. The Lt. Governor said it would be addressed at a later date along with Pre-K proposals.
Patrick then introduced Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), chairman of the Senate Committee on Education.
Senator Taylor said some of schools are “not getting the job done.” He said he agrees with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who says “we can do a lot better.” The Senator expressed that education should not be a partisan issue and that, as chairman, he was prepared to listen to all sides on these critical issues.
“It is vital for lawmakers to bring all Texas students into the 21st Century by removing roadblocks and encouraging innovative and transformative learning tools,” the Senator explained. “Embracing change is not a choice. Texas students and parents demand it.”
As chairman, Taylor introduced a series of bills that will be worked first by his committee. He explained that during the 83rd Legislative Session (2013) the Legislature passed an A-F grading system for school districts. “This session, we will pass the same A-F grading system for each campus within a district.”
He said the success or failure of an individual school campus needs to be clearer. Taylor said we need to be able to focus parents’ attention on bad campuses, not just bad districts.
Workforce development was another area that will receive priority focus. The Senator pledged that all seventh and eighth graders would receive college and career-readiness courses. This courses would be tailored to meet the needs of specific regions around the state where program requirements would differ.
Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) announced the filing of SB13 which is designed to improve access to college courses in high school and to encourage college and career exploration at an early age. The bill will lift the current cap on the number of dual enrollment courses that a student may enroll in each semester.
“Texas is on the right path by moving away from the one-size-fits-all standards of the past,” said Senator Perry. “It is my hope that this bill will give our local school districts the tools they need to ensure all students graduating high school have a path — be it towards a vocation or college.”
Taylor discussed a “parent empowerment” program to allow parents to petition a failing school for improvements sooner than currently allowed. Under the proposal, parents could petition the school after two consecutive failing years. Current law requires more than five consecutive years before anything can be done to help the parent and student. “Six years is too long to suffer,” Taylor said while reminding attendees that that period is half of a child’s total education years.
He also pledged to have more online and digital learning that would be available to both students enrolled in schools and prospective students who are not enrolled. The proposal would remove the limit of three online or digital courses per student that currently exists. He said we need to remove obstacles to innovation in the area of online-only schools.
Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) filed two bills to improve teacher preparation, readiness, and effectiveness. SB 892 expresses that high-quality teacher preparation programs must be utilized to balance teacher shortages with preparation. The bill creates an innovative program of averaging the grade point average requirement across the entire class of teacher candidates. It also increases the number of hours teaching candidates must spend in the classroom before becoming certified.
SB 893 is designed to provide more effective teachers. It provides more opportunities for leadership in teaching careers and promotes professional growth and improvement. The program will provide professional development, career advancement and pay increases, Senator Taylor said at the press conference. It would also provide pay raises based on teacher performance and qualifications, not just on seniority.
“This bill positively impacts both students and teachers,” said Senator Seliger in a press release. “If we attract, develop, engage and reward effective teachers, we will inevitably see gains in student achievement as well as the enrichment of teaching as a profession.”
Finally, Senator Taylor talked about a plan to create a special “Opportunity District,” designed to take over and turn around failing school campuses. A special superintendent would be appointed to rescue school campuses that have failed for two consecutive years. The program would be phased in, but Taylor emphasized there should be no cap on the number of campuses that could be absorbed by the special school district. “Why cap it if it is working,” Taylor stated.
Governor Patrick closed out the press conference stating that students “should not be sentenced to a low performing school.”
“This is step one,” Patrick said. “The Texas Senate if very serious about providing the best education choices for every parent.
The conference was attended by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick; Education Chairman – Senator Larry Taylor; Vice-Chairman Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville); and Republican Senators Charles Perry, Donna Campbell, Kel Seliger, and Paul Bettencourt.