“Reform is never finished, and success is never final,” says Patrick.
Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – “Families in the inner cities are behind it. The Catholic schools, the Jewish schools, the Protestant Christian schools are all behind this,” said State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston,) of his proposal to improve Texas’ education system. As Texas lawmakers assemble beneath the capitol rotunda in Austin this week, they will quickly learn of the ground-breaking education reforms championed by the new Senate Education Committee Chairman.
Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst held a press conference last month announcing a major education reform initiative for Texas, including changes they plan to make during the 83rd Legislative Session that begins Tuesday.
Dewhurst and Patrick, in his initial announcement as Senate Education Committee Chairman, laid out their goals for education, which include:
- Changes to the Texas School Accountability System
- Expansion of Charter Schools
- More options for parents & teachers, and
- Creating additional pathways toward graduation with an emphasis on career as well as college.
“Our children deserve the best education possible, and we need to make it easy for parents to determine the destiny for their child’s education,” said Dewhurst.
“It’s a moral issue,” said Senator Patrick.
“Every parent has a right, whether you have a child with a severe disability, or whether you have a child in a failing school.
“You should have a right to send your child to the school that you think can best help that child. It’s about their life.”
Backed by top Republican leaders, Patrick hopes to lift an existing state limitation on the number of strictly regulated Charter Schools, which many say is long-overdue for changing.
“We have 100,000 kids on the wait list for charters,” said Patrick. “These are parents that want their kids to do better, who are willing to make the sacrifice if they have the option.”
He also wants to allow Texas businesses to funnel a share of their state taxes to a private school scholarship fund aimed at kids living in poverty. Pushing “choice” to the limit, he hopes to eliminate barriers that currently prevent students from crossing district boundaries in pursuit of better schools.
“If you live in Houston ISD and there’s room in Spring Branch, go to a Spring Branch school if that’s your choice,” said Patrick.
Critics in the education establishment claim the senator’s slate of “choice” legislation will weaken existing public schools by draining scarce resources. Opponents have labeled that proposal a “voucher program.”
Patrick offered this response:
“I’m not going to accept that lie being told anymore. I’m going to fight it from the roof tops.
“I’m going to fight it in the streets, because it is lie.”
Under Patrick’s legislation, both traditional and charter schools that are unable to emerge from failure within two years will be shutdown. Troubled schools currently receive five years to achieve an acceptable level of performance.
An on another thorny issue that is sure to be addressed, Patrick said, “I have met with countless superintendents and teachers and heard the concerns voiced about the new STAAR testing system.
“I believe we need to relieve students and teachers from over-testing,” said the Senate Education Chairman.