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EduLege Tracker 8-2-18

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EduLege Update Volume VI, Number 43
August 2, 2018
By Andy Welch
A Service of the Texas School Public Relations Association

Waive on…

The Texas Education Agency has announced that the vast majority of the school districts along the Gulf Coast—stretching from Port Aransas to Beaumont—will be eligible for academic accountability waivers this year due to Hurricane Harvey, meaning that they will be labeled as “Not Rated" unless they score an A on the state’s new A-F accountability system.

Statewide, 109 school districts were deemed eligible for hurricane waivers.

TEA says that it will grant the waivers to districts that had large numbers of displaced students and teachers, the destruction of school facilities and teaching materials and the loss of instructional days.

According to TEA, there are 1,188 local campuses along the Gulf Coast that were significantly affected by Hurricane Harvey, and which are also eligible for special consideration in this year’s accountability system.

If a campus meets at least one of the Hurricane Harvey criteria, and receives an “Improvement Required” rating, the campus will, instead, be labeled as “Not Rated” for 2018.

This is the first year of the state’s new A-F accountability system. In previous years, districts were labeled “Met Standard” or Improvement Required.” Campuses still will receive those two ratings in 2018, and the A-F grades will apply to them beginning in 2019.

The complete list of school districts and local campuses that are eligible for the special Hurricane Harvey exemptions in this year’s state accountability system has been posted on TEA’s website.

Disinvested…

Texas has the nation’s fastest-growing student population—with about 850,000 new pupils in the past decade—but over the same period, the state has cut funding for public education by $2.5 billion.

The cuts are second only to Florida’s, according to a new report from the American Federation of Teachers.

Instead of spending on public education, the report—“A Decade of Neglect: Public Education Funding in the Aftermath of the Great Recession”—says that the Texas Legislature cut state business taxes and forced local property owners to pay the bulk of the cost of funding schools.

“Texas should be ashamed of its disinvestment in education,” said Louis Malfaro, President of the Texas Federation of Teachers. “There is no one to blame but state officials, including the governor and lieutenant governor, who would rather hand out tax cuts than give our kids a well-funded education.

“The fact is, money matters in schools.”

Whether state legislators will decide to reverse the trend when they convene again in 2019 remains to be seen.

Chandra Villanueva, a school-finance expert at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, says the state has “broken the grand bargain,” by not restoring billions of dollars it cut from school funding in 2011.

“In 2015, when we had a more-positive revenue outlook, we cut taxes,” Ms.  Villanueva said. “This is all very self-inflicted.

“We’re underfunding our schools, then we say they’re failures: that we need vouchers.”

The full report is available here.

Lackluster…

A new study for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board doesn't show dramatic gains for students who take college courses while in high school.

Dual credit has been promoted as a way to offer economically disadvantaged students and students of color a chance to get ahead in their college studies.

“The data gathered suggest that's not the case,” said Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes. “In fact, in some cases, it hurts low-income students in their achievement of a higher education credential. We have to find out what's going on there.”

Researchers looked at the performance of students from 2001 to 2015. While the enrollment rate of students who went on to attend college was higher for those who took dual-credit classes, it was only about 2.4 percentage points higher than it was for similar students who didn't take such courses.

College completion rates were only about 1.1 percentage points higher for students who took such classes.

“Dual credit has been a huge benefit for the state, and the average student who takes dual credit,” researcher Trey Miller said. “But we have to ensure that the students who take dual-credit courses are adequately prepared to take them, and that we're doing everything around the edges to improve them."

Forget it…

The chance of Texas passing a so-called “Red Flag” law in the wake of the Santa Fe school shootings has significantly diminished after Governor Greg Abbott stated that he’s finding a “coalescence” against any such proposal.

As part of his school safety plan, which was compiled and released within weeks of the Santa Fe shootings, the Republican governor asked the Legislature to consider such a law, which would allow courts to order the seizure or surrender of guns from people who are deemed an imminent threat by a judge. But even then, Governor Abbott's suggestion drew the ire of some Second Amendment hardliners, including Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

Now the Governor is suggesting that the state doesn’t need any tougher gun control measures.

“It seems like there's coalescence around the notion of not supporting what's categorized as a 'red flag' law.  What is important is ... that we work together as a legislative body towards solutions to make our schools safer and to make our communities safer,” Governor Abbott said.

In his school safety plan, Governor Abbott encouraged the Legislature to “consider the merits of adopting a red flag law” that would allow firearms to be removed from a potentially dangerous person after legal due process. In the plan, he claimed that protective orders restricting gun possession, like red flag laws, could have prevented the mass shootings in Sutherland Springs and Parkland, Florida.

Armed and dangerous…

The Santa Fe school district has accepted a number of donations—including metal detectors—to help ensure student safety, following the May shooting that killed 10 and wounded 13.

And now, Santa Fe school trustees have voted to add eight AR-15 rifles to that list.

The anonymous donation is worth about $20,000, including ammunition, rifle optics, rental fees for a local gun range and tuition for shooting courses.

Only the district's 14 full-time commissioned officers will be equipped with AR-15s.

Meanwhile, Santa Fe parents are divided over whether classroom teachers should also be armed.

“Santa Fe ISD needs to keep guns out of the classroom,” said Rhonda Hart, the mother of student victim Kimberly Vaughan. “Maybe if they had, my daughter wouldn't have four bullets in her.”

Others, however, supported allowing teachers have access to guns.

"Had my teacher been armed that day, there's a chance he may have stopped this person, and I just might be able to laugh, high-five and make memories with my best friends next year," one parent read from a letter written by a student.

The first class…

The Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation has announced the first 100 recipients of the “Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers.”

The inaugural class was chosen from a pool of 350 candidates through a competitive selection process, which included a written application, interviews, group activities and a demonstration teaching lesson. All scholars are committed to teaching in high-needs Texas public schools, or in hard-to-fill subject areas.  They will receive an $8,000 scholarship each year, as well as ongoing training, mentorship and networking opportunities facilitated by the foundation.

“Teaching is one of society’s most important professions and strong teachers are critical to the future of Texas,” said Charles Butt, founder of Raise Your Hand Texas and the Holdsworth Center, and chairman and CEO of H-E-B.  “I am thrilled to welcome this first cohort of Charles Butt Scholars and believe this initiative is an important first step in encouraging our best and brightest to consider a career as a teacher.”

The scholarship is part of the Raising Texas Teachers initiative, a 10-year, $50 million project designed to support university-based teacher preparation programs in addressing the needs of 21st century students, elevate the status of the teaching profession and inspire top students to pursue teaching.

This year’s scholarships were awarded to students attending, or planning to attend, one of 10 partner universities selected by Raise Your Hand for their commitment to rigorous teacher preparation. Over time, the scholarship program will grow to include at least 500 scholars annually, and expand to include leadership development opportunities for the state’s top high school students who are interested in a career in education. 


EduLege is provided by the Texas School Public Relations Association as a service to its members.

Long-time TSPRA member Andy Welch, the retired Communication Director for the Austin School District, compiles and writes EduLege.  Questions or comments may be directed to him at andywelch1@gmail.com.

For more updates on education news from throughout the state, visit the TSPRA website.