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Government/Politics

No School Choice On LG, Senate’s Stated Educational Priorities, For Now

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Ryan E. Poppe
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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Friendswood Republican Sen. Larry Taylor, the head of the state Senate’s education committee, have identified six education-related bills to be fast-tracked through the Senate, but that priority list does not include a controversial bill that would legalize school choice programs in Texas.

Talking to the media in the Senate’s pressroom, Patrick stressed that this was just a preliminary list of education reforms he’d like to see. “I just want to emphasize this is just part of a bigger package. We have some great public schools, but if you are a parent with a student in one of those failing schools, you should not be sentenced to that school, school choice will have a very low bill number in our final layout of bills. We are looking at Pre-K as well,” Patrick explained.

The bills Patrick is ready to send over to Taylor’s education committee range from a proposal that would implement an A through F rating system for individual campuses, to a bill that sets up parent-triggers for failing school districts. That’s where a group of parents can petition the state to re-purpose a school after two years of being given an “F” rating. At the moment, parents have to wait five years before they can request the state to take action.

“Now think about it,” said Taylor. “If you’re in elementary school, five years is your whole elementary school career and frankly, if it takes six years, that’s half of your public school career. That is too long for kids to suffer in a system that’s not working.”

But Clay Robinson, with the Texas State Teacher’s Association, said a parent trigger bill or any other that promises education reform isn’t what was necessary. “What public schools need now is not a bunch of experiments of privatization schemes. What schools need is a complete restoration of the funds cut in 2011,” Robinson said.

Another bill being fast-tracked would base teacher pay raises on classroom performance rather than seniority.