Texas House Leaders Pushed Progressive Community Schools over Reform for Failing Schools

AP File Photo/Harry Cabluck

Texas House leadership squashed education reform legislation that would have sped up the time to “repurpose” chronically failing public schools during the recent 84th Legislature. Instead, they aggressively pushed for progressive community schools.

That education reform would have shaved the years parents wait in a failing public school to submit a change-the-school petition to three years, down from current maximum of six years, the Austin American Statesman reported.

Last weekend, the Austin-based news outlet revisited the legislative session, blaming Governor Abbott for the failure of this legislation to pass, even though it was House education leadership who blocked the bills. The Statesman then quoted Texas Classroom Teachers Association (TCTA) lawyer Lonnie Hollingsworth who called repurposing a “bad idea.”

In response, Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan slammed House Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) who “didn’t even give the House version of Abbott’s measure a hearing, nor did he even allow a vote on the Senate’s bill.”

That version, House Bill 1727, was never heard of again after March 12. Senate Bill 14 fizzled in the House at the end of the session. Rep. Charles Dutton (D-Houston), who wrote HB 1727, also advocated for “Opportunity School District” repurposing legislation HB 1536 to address 297 failing public school campuses that account for 147,769 Texas students. That bill never went anywhere either.

Sullivan underscored that “educrat union leaders and liberals at the core of the House cabal’s regime don’t want children to escape failing schools.”

House Leadership may have been against repurposing but they ferociously pushed for a big education version of it — community schools, House Bill 1891.

Aycock and Austin Democrat Eddie Rodriguez were two of the bill’s authors.

Anti-school choice activists portray community schools as a way to keep public schools from closing their doors or as fending off charters because they elect to “transition to a Texas community school under Subchapter N, Chapter 29, instead of reconstitution.”

However, open enrollment charter schools are public schools and they can flip to community schools, too, says the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS). Even though they focus on public schools, CCS welcomes parochial and private schools.

The U.S. Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teachers union in the nation, advocate for community schools. AFT calls them the collective “promise” of public education.

In 2010, Education Secretary Arne Duncan mused on a macabre vision of the school as the center of community life. “Schools need to be open 12, 13, 14 hours a day, six, seven days a week, 12 months out of the year, with a whole host of activities, particularly in disadvantaged communities,” he said on the PBS News Hour. This year, he upped the ante, declaring “Certain kids we should have 24/7…”

As the hub of the community, the school tends to the academic, social, emotional, behavioral, physical health and mental health needs for the whole family through early childhood services, after school programs,  family involvement, family support, community development, community engagement, adult education and even, counseling. There is also family planning. The lawmakers painstakingly wrote anti-abortion verbiage into the May 14 record vote (CSHB 1891) to stave off Planned Parenthood.

TCTA supports community schools and praised HB 1891. TCTA downplays its role as a teachers union but boasts it is consistently rated “the top lobby group among teacher associations.” Hollingsworth was on the TCTA education lobby team that met with Aycock and other legislators and staffers early on during the session. TCTA also opposed the similar Senate side Opportunity School District legislation, SB 669.

Save Texas Schools also support community schools, telling a parable about the redistribution of gold in the fabled forgotten land of Tejas as their kitschy message to massage the transformation of public education. The tale was written by Save Texas Schools advisory committee chair Allen Weeks. He and AFT president Randi Weingarten sat on the “Reclaiming the Promise through Community Schools” panel at the 2014 SXSWedu conference held in Austin. Weingarten said she was in town for two months to work with Weeks on a “community schools strategy.”

CCS is part of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) and it is funded by a handful of philanthropic organizations including the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, whose generosity reaches out to the far left — Tides Center and Tides Foundation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the (Jimmy) Carter Center, according to the Capital Research Center. They added that Mott Foundation has funded radical “community organizing groups” such as the National Council of La Raza, ACORN-affiliated American Institute for Social Justice and the Saul Alinsky-founded Industrial Areas Foundation.

Community schools also embrace the Common Core “whole child” methodology of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) championed in Texas at the Austin Independent School District.

SEL was popularized in 1995 by pop-psychologist Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Quotient: Why It Can Matter More than IQ.  Today, the University of Chicago-based Collaborative of Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) promotes soft-skills learning and the feelings or values-based competencies associated with the Common Core and the education reform movement.

Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond sits on the CASEL board. In February, she praised the Common Core to 300 people at California State University, Northridge. She served as President Obama’s education policy spokeswoman during his 2008 election campaign, has advised Common Core creators Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). She also consulted for Common Core test provider American Institutes for Research (AIR). In Texas, she was on the CSCOPE development team.

Breitbart Texas reported HB 1891 would have fundamentally altered the role that public education plays in the lives of families in ways that would have conflicted with Texas values. Still, House education leadership fought to bring it into Texas.

Disclosure: Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan is a Breitbart Texas contributor.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.




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