Thankfully, Dangerous Texas School Choice Bill Died In Session
By Carole Hornsby Haynes June 3, 2021
One of the nine Texas Republican Party Priorities for the 87th Session is school choice but the bills filed in the 2021 legislative session were not the change that we need. Fortunately, the bills didn't gain support because they would opened the door to Marxist indoctrination and federal programs for low income students.
Texas educates around 5.5 million K-12 students which is about 10% of those in all 50 US. states. A 2017 report showed that nearly 20% attended more than 1,000 failing Texas schools. After a year of virtual learning, by early 2021 every major school district in Central Texas reported an increase in the number of middle and high school students failing at least one class at the halfway point in the school year.
With children being homebound for more than a year because schools decided to close for a pandemic that scientifically did not qualify to be a pandemic, parents had an opportunity at last to see just what their children were -- and were not -- learning. Many are demanding change.
The school choice bills that were filed in the 2021 session were not the change that we need. Because of various issues with the bills, I could not support them. Those who did justified their support with the excuse that “something is better than nothing.” No, it’s not. It’s that willingness to compromise with the devil that has led the Republican Party leftward.
Here are some of the issues that I have with the bill.
1. Only accredited schools would be eligible.
Most private schools in Texas are not accredited. Note that there is no correlation between accreditation and educational quality. While there are 130,000 students on waiting lists for charter schools (which are still public schools), there are 100,000 empty seats in private schools that could be available to low income students.
2. Teachers would be required to be certified (or be teachers/tutors at an institution of higher learning). There is absolutely no correlation between teacher certification and teacher effectiveness. Certification is most often tied to teacher colleges which are steeped in Marxism and Social and Emotional Learning (which is tied to leftwing federal legislation). Being forced to use teachers from colleges presents the same problem of Marxist ideology. Requiring teaching certification is simply going to continue this communist indoctrination. What is important in good teaching is sound knowledge of the subject matter without any ideological biases.
3. Private schools (which must be accredited) would have to use nationally norm-referenced assessments. Norm-referenced test questions are designed to emphasize performance differences between students and not to measure whether students have achieved specific learning standards (this is the familiar bell curve where a certain percentage are expected to fall within a level). Examples include the SAT (which is now aligned with Common Core so students must be taught Common Core skills to be successful on this test), Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), and Stanford 9 (SAT-9).
More commonly used today are criterion-referenced tests that measure student performance against a fixed set of pre-determined criteria or learning standards that students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage in their education.
Criterion-referenced tests may be high-stakes tests used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts. Or they may be “low-stakes tests” used to measure the academic achievement of individual students, identify learning problems, or inform instructional adjustments.
In Texas, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) is a Criterion-referenced test which measures mastery of the Texas curriculum standards.
Criterion-referenced tests used across the nation include the standardized Advanced Placement (AP) exams and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Criterion-referenced tests include those created by individual teachers for individual classes.
4. Restrictions are placed on homeschool families. The number of homeschool households has doubled since the closing of schools in 2020. Some parents had to leave their paid jobs to stay at home with no pay. This bill would deny any payment for teaching to parents or family members within the home although payment would be allowed for online programs, curriculum, therapies, etc. Note that parents have educated their own children successfully for centuries without licenses. This bill would force low income parents to make a decision between working -- usually away from home -- to earn much needed family income or staying home without pay to educate their children. This will force most low income parents to remain in failing indoctrination centers.
It is far better to have no school choice bill than to have one that opens the door to continued leftwing indoctrination. It seems that lawmakers are more concerned about government control over education than giving low income families true education alternatives to educate their young as they wish.