This has been an eventful week for me with the completion of the combination of the Texas Institute for Education Reform (TIER), which I have chaired for the past 10 years, with Texans for Education Reform (TER), a partner with which we share common objectives for Texas public education, to form Texas Aspires. We believe this combination will add significant value to the education reform effort to the benefit of Texas children and I want to share the news with subscribers to The Texas Pilgrim. Below is an article from The Quorum Report by Kimberly Reeves describing the affiliation. As always, I appreciate your feedback.
August 18, 2016 1:16 PM
Texans for Education Reform merges with Texas Institute for Education Reform
The two groups join forces to become Texas Aspires
Texas Aspires was announced today, the merger of the Texas Institute for Education Reform and the well-funded Texans for Education Reform.
The merger gets rid of the frequent question – which one is TIER and which one is TER? – but it also shifts the deck to create a more conciliatory education reform effort in Texas. Courtney Boswell, who currently leads TIER and formerly led TER, has been named executive director.
Jim Windham of TIER and Woody Hunt of TER will serve as co-chairs for the new Texas Aspires.
“Utilizing our collective strength, Texas Aspires will be a powerful catalyst for change in Texas education,” Woody Hunt said. “We can’t wait to get to work and take on the challenge of championing greater opportunity for Texas students in our P-16 system.”
This also reunites Boswell with her former boss Sen. Florence Shapiro, a key architect of the current school accountability system and chair of the Senate Education Committee for a decade before she retired in 2013. Other board members include former Education Secretary Rod Paige and former education Commissioner Michael Williams.
In the shorthand of the traditional education lobby, TER was often tied to the powerful Texans for Lawsuit Reform, sharing common lobbyists. Organizers dismissed the connection, but TER often was seen as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s close ally and a big spender in election politics.
More than anything, Texans for Education Reform was known for its high-dollar spending on lobby contracts. According to the Texas Ethics Commission, TER carried almost two-dozen contracts with lobbyists during the 84th legislative session, the most of effective of which was Jarrad Toussant, the one-time leader of Cory Booker’s education strategies in Newark. Toussant now works for Educate Texas.
TER often appeared to have difficulty landing on a consistent education agenda, often led more by gimmick than principle. The organization stabilized under former gubernatorial aide Julie Linn, who departed last year to join the Great Hearts Texas charter school network. Linn also will serve on the board for Texas Aspires.
The Texas Institute for Education Reform has a longer history and a smaller footprint, spearheaded by, among others, Houston businessman and former Texas Public Policy Foundation board memberJim Windham. TIER has a history of alliances with the Texas Business Leadership Council and theTexas Association of Business.
“Texas Aspires will focus on putting students first, serving as a unified voice for their interests in Austin,” Windham said. “We will advocate for policies that increase student outcomes, involve parents and educators, and create meaningful improvements in the classroom.”
Where Texas Aspires lands politically appears to be closer to TIER than TER, from the video the organization posted on its new website. The organization rolls out more of its vision next week.
Texas Aspires provides something of a counterpoint for Raise Your Hand Texas, which also has been staffing up in recent months after the departure of executive director David Anthony, who championed the recent districts of innovation legislation.
High-profile additions include Ann Smisko, David Anderson and Amanda Brownson. All three have played roles in the Texas Education Agency. Smisko, most recently deputy superintendent in Dallas ISD, will serve as deputy director of policy and programs.
By Kimberly Reeves
Jim, well done, my friend. Your straight forward efforts for a sthrengthing of Texas educational outcomes, since 2010 is worth of a “Texas Legend” status. An educational Texas Ranger!
All the very best for the newly merged organization.
Kenneth M. Williams
Five generation, Native Texan
Kent Guida says
Sounds like a good move and a strong combination. Look forward to hearing more about Texas Aspires.
In the words of my dear friend, Mary, who is a former educator and community public servant, all of this is stupid, whether it is from these lobbies or TASA/TASB, whatever. For decades people have been well educated in this country. A person with an IQ of 100 can learn enough to be college educated. A person with an IQ of 115 can be a doctor or lawyer. All of this bureaucracy and silly words are nonsense, just stupid. Get out of the way and let the teachers teach and the kids learn. Everyone else mind your own business.
Bernie Francis says
The impact of your passion for educating kids from families of low incomes, low political capital and low quality teachers will be everlasting. As a Black education reformer, I feel a tick closer to the cultural train wreck of failing schools. I applaud you for this courageous step in your relentless efforts to improve the futures of the most vulnerable and underserved students in Texas. Keep it going, my friend.
Lynn D says
Listen at 10:20 where Dr. Pat Huff proved:
“No Child left behind was written with the intent to drive schools to failure.”
Then at 18:41:
“What TASA really is is a lobbying organization to put out information, that while it may look like it is supporting the administrators, actually what it’s doing is keeping everybody locked in place because TASA works in conjunction with Congress. They work in conjunction with TEA. And when those three different bodies: the TEA and the professional organizations (which is TASA) and the politicians are all working together, then the lobbyists and the business interests can do their job. And that is… that they can move forward with their agenda, because trust me, none of this is coming from the educators. It’s not coming really from the TEA. It’s coming from the business interests that are moving our education agenda to a DEFINED END: that is to move us to a public-private partnership for businesses work together with the politicians and the education agency to move the education forward in the agenda and the direction they want it to move.”