By Geraldine (Tincy) Miller
Texas Insider Report: Austin, TX — On November 18th and 19th, I attended my final State Board of Education meeting as the representative for District 12. After 26 wonderful years, my time on the Board has come to an end. I have been humbled and honored that the people of District 12 entrusted me with such an important position. I hope that I have fulfilled your expectations along the way.
As many of you know my background is in reading, specializing in teaching children with Dyslexia how to read, write and spell. My desire to be on the State Board of Education was fueled by my experience with my eldest son who struggled with a form of dyslexia called dysgraphia.
After watching him fall through the cracks in the educational system, I knew more had to be done to help these children who are very bright and fight to keep their heads above water in school. Consequently, I worked tirelessly to help pass the first Dyslexia Law in Texas, also the first in the USA. I also worked with TEA and Scottish Rite Hospital to help create the first Dyslexia Handbook in 1989 followed by timely updates and revisions … with the latest update in September, 2010.
You can find a copy on the TEA Web Site. This is a comprehensive tool for teachers that educate students with dyslexia, as well as, for parents to read and understand this learning difference that can effect 5, 10 to 20% of our population. These are the kids who think out of the box and are our future entrepreneurs!
In the midst of working for children with dyslexia, I became knowledgeable about other aspects of the State Board of Education and developed a passion in those areas as well. I became a staunch supporter of the “Children’s Textbook Fund” (the Permanent School Fund) and worked to protect it from being raided by the Legislature every two years.
This is a 22+ billion dollar Fund that generates approximately $700-800 million a year. In other words, plenty of money to buy books with enough left over to send extra money to the school districts to cover educational needs.
This fund was written into the Texas Constitution in the mid 1800’s to provide free textbooks for each student in our public schools. The Fund is managed by the SBOE … not the Legislature … and that is why the Fund has grown to approximately 22-23 billion dollars and is considered in the top performing 10% of all educational endowments in the USA.
The Permanent School Fund is meant to be permanent in perpetuity for future generations of public school children. Then I studied our textbook adoption process and helped streamline it by having the books reviewed by teachers who are experts in that particular subject … in other words:
- Reading teachers reviewing reading books
- Math teachers reviewing math books
- Science teachers reviewing science books, and
- History teachers reviewing history books, etc.
In the first year of implementation, the teachers found over 5,000 errors in the books. Now, for every error that is found by our schools, the publisher has to pay a big fine and send a correction to the school. The books must be aligned to the curriculum standards and therefore to the state test.
I am very proud of these accomplishments and urge the new members on the SBOE to learn, respect and protect our “Children’s Textbook Fund”…for it belongs to the public school children of Texas.
If there is anything I would like to leave behind it is that every student deserves to be given the tools they need to succeed in school and the focus of your decisions should be about the children. Always ask yourself, “what is in the best interest of the student”? And remember there is no republican or democrat way to educate kids…just “the right way”!!
At the last meeting, the Board discussed the proposed cycle for the adoption of instructional materials. To recap, at the end of the 80th Legislature the Texas Education Agency was asked to find cost reduction methods for purchasing textbooks.
In response to this request, we voted in September to exclude Supplemental Science materials for grades 5-8 from the scheduled purchase. This was not an easy decision, but one we felt we needed to make in order to create cost saving at a time when the State is facing upwards of a $24 billion budget shortfall.
A related item that the Board addressed in November was the payout rate of the Permanent School Fund to the Texas Legislature. The Board has always been prudent with its oversight of the Fund, and consequently it has grown significantly since its inception. In my 26 years on the Board, the Permanent School Fund has increased in value from almost $4.5 billion to $23.5 billion today!
This next biennium, the money we payout will cover the costs of textbooks for:
- English Language Arts Reading, (grades 2-12)
- Spanish Language Arts (grades 2-6)
- English as a Second Language (grades K-8)
- Handwriting (grades 1-3)
- Spelling (grades 1-6) and
- Supplemental Science Materials (grades 9-12)
Given the importance and the scope of the materials, we voted on a payout rate of 3 ½ percent. This is at the higher end of what payouts have historically been, but it is viable given the recent recovery in the investment markets.
In addition to this payout rate, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson agreed to send $300 million extra to the Texas Legislature. This, along with the higher payout rate, allowed us to add back in the Supplemental Science Materials for grades 5-8. Publishers will be given two extra months to submit bids for these materials.
I want to thank you, again, for all your support over my 26 years on the State Board of Education. This, parenthood, and a supportive husband of 54 years have been the three things that have given me the most joy in my life. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you, and I look forward to continuing my involvement in education through other avenues in the future.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Tincy Miller represents Dist. 12 on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). A Member since 1984, she was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as Chair from 2003-2007.