The Texas Legislature has convened for its biannual 140-day run and public education, unlike anytime in recent memory, has taken center stage in public opinion. As well it should, as evidenced by recent data on student education outcomes as reported by Texas 2036:
- 52% of students are on grade level in reading
- 40% of students are on grade level in math
- 62% of jobs in Texas will require a postsecondary credential by 2030
- 26% of Texas high school graduates earn a postsecondary credential within six years of graduation
- Yet 87% of schools earned an A or B rating in the state accountability system
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s pretty clear. And these results have essentially flatlined for the past decade, long before the hit from the COVID pandemic. In addition, the issue today is not limited to the failure of the system to meet the educational needs of Texas students; it is also being used in many instances by the progressive left as a tool for “woke” indoctrination.
Many of us have spent decades attempting to reform the system from above. Although we’ve made progress on some fronts, inevitably those reforms have been undone over time. We must face a reality which has evaded us for years: really meaningful reform will only come by allowing parents the option to select a school that best meets the needs of their children and have the funding follow the child. Only when competition enters the equation will the education establishment transform itself to meet the needs of Texas students.
I have joined the board of Liberty for the Kids, the leading advocacy organization for school choice in Texas. This will be a difficult fight, but this is the best opportunity we have had for meaningful reform in several decades. If you would like to help, go to www.libertyforthekids.com.
Tim P. says
Plow on! Parental school choice through tax vouchers for public AND private (including home) schools is the only hope we have. Union corruption and control in conjunction with federal mandates is the root cause of continued flagging student performance. Driving down and eliminating standards and requirements for admissions, graduations, and certifications are the primary objective of the woke movement of discrimination.
Allen Martin says
Public, government schoolds will not be improved. Get yout kides out of those pits. These teachers can do nothing even if they would so desire. All of their books have been junk since the 1990s and have gotten profoundly worse each recent year. Our teachers are rarely in the NEA, but those fiends have great incluence on the TEA and ISDs. Save the children, also destroy the public government schools, then maybe try again.
Sandy Kress says
Jim, thanks for being ever-vigilant on the importance of effectively educating our children.
You make the point that we had made progress before the reforms were undone by the legislature a decade ago. But the extent of it is huge. By way of example, our 8th graders, specifically children of color, MADE GAINS OF THREE GRADE LEVELS FROM THE EARLY 90s TO 2011. They lost over a full grade level from 2011 to 2019. And they lost further ground during COVID. This is the largest retreat in the nation.
For those who want to understand this in more practical terms, OUR BLACK AND HISPANIC 8th GRADERS WERE GENERALLY READY AS OF 2011 TO STUDY HIGH SCHOOL MATH AND SCIENCE CONTENT FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN 2011. THEY NO LONGER ARE.
Yet, the Legislature shows zero inclination to restore and build upon the reforms that had worked so well in Texas for 30 years. They actually, under the pressure of groups like Raise Your Hand Texas, are considering cutting away even more at whatever is left of the reform structure.
I’m with you! It’s time for parents to have choice. This is especially needed for students in schools that continue to fall back. Why should parents be forced to keep their kids in schools the system allows to be broken and won’t fix?
Here’s my question for you: what is Liberty for the Kids doing to break the clutch that the system has over rural Republicans to keep supporting the status quo?
Choice doesn’t have a prayer as long as the network the educrats have built up in our state’s towns and villages continues to keep legislators opposed to choice.
Should these rural areas be allowed out of coverage in this legislation?
Richard Illyes says
Homeschoolers should be paid for successful work. This is a group that would drive radical K-12 reform if a practical way existed to pay them.
What if we just cut through the morass of programs and take all the money being provided at the federal, state and local level and put it into individual student endowment accounts?
Student endowment funds would pay out annually for students who achieved minimum grade level knowledge, including to the parents of homeschooled students. The determination of minimum achievement would be through testing, with the tests from free market providers.
Providers for students who did poorly would not be paid, leaving twice the annual amount available next year to educators who could catch them up. Seriously underperforming students would accrue several years of catch-up funding, providing extra incentive for the type of personalized attention that would benefit them. Military veteran servicemen and women teaching small groups of students, developing personal relationships, can change lost kids into enthusiastic young adults.
Let’s end the monopoly. Let’s open the door to competition. Get the free market involved.
Unleash technology, but pay only for results.
vern wuensche says
You mirror my attitude perfectly. Our prosperity in America is a result of free enterprise producing products in a competitive marketplace. What not the product called an exceptional education which is ultimately the most important product that should be produced in America.
Very best of luck Jim. We have fallen far behind Arizona, Florida, and other states in school choice – it’s time for Texas to not only catch-up but move to the head of the pack! BTW, before you talk to any rural legislators that think private competition will never come to their district, I highly recommend doing a little googling on private microschools (like Acton Academy in Austin), which have really taken off in the last decade and especially since the pandemic. Enabled by eLearning technology, they radically reduce the scale needed to start a private school. They would thrive in every corner of the state with the proper support, including in local churches. Here’s a good overview:
david redford says
I wish my friend Mark White was alive so he could reply. He would definitely be against taking tax dollars from public schools and giving them to private schools. I have told many people that Mark was the best education governor in Texas history and no one has disagreed. We have about the lowest paid teachers in the country so we might start there. Perry and Abbott have shown little interest in education and trying to compete with Mark. The rural legislators would be shooting themselves in some body part if they vote for this “reform”.
Danny Billingsley says
David, White left office over 35 years ago. What a democrat governor could do then is impossible for a democrat to do now, due to the woke ideology of progressives like “Beto”. That being said, what White pushed for was teacher pay raises and smaller classes, both TSTA positions. He was forced to accept testing to get it done. He was a one term governor because he couldn’t lead a hungry horse to a feed trough. My Mom was a Texas teacher back then, so I was more exposed to the politics of the time than many.
Thanks, Jim, for your tireless efforts on behalf of quality education.
vern wuensche says
Thanks so much for all you have done for education for decades. I support you and Liberty and the Kids in this effort and hope this legislative session is successful.
Jim, this is a slightly different comment, based on your time successfully leading the Houston Live Stock and Rodeo program to raise reading to Third Grade level with area schools. I read today in the Chronicle about the success the NCAA ‘s Read to the Final Four is having in its schools competition between Third Graders. Eleven area districts with 6,800 third graders from 68 Schools participating.
This event only occurs in the city hosting the final four each year; which is Houston in 2023.
Would this be a template for a similar annual competition organized by the Rodeo?
Jim Windham says
I wasn’t even aware of this competition until today. We probably have the manpower to handle it and it would fit with our mission, but obviously it would require a change in theme and sponsorship.
I hope there is a “Jim W” within the Rodeo that would take up the responsibility to do this. It may take some guidance.
Jim Windham says
There are plenty of them, and all about 40 years younger.