ATPE News Magazine

Fall 2016 | Volume 37 | Issue 1

Asking Necessary Questions about Public Education Changes

Looking at the details of various education-related issues can be daunting. Rarely does legislation simply address a single issue, such as class-size limits or compensation. Instead, we get 391 pages of the NCLB reform bill (Every Student Succeeds Act), or mind-numbing details of school finance proposals. At the end of the day, whether it is the Texas legislature, Congress, or school boards, these policy changes have real consequences for both your professional and personal life. Major education reforms are taking place, and parents, taxpayers, and educators must ask thoughtful questions about what is happening to Texas’s public education system.

Is It ok for Someone Without a Teaching Certificate to Teach Our Children?

This is the reality now in Texas. In 2015, the legislature passed a law that allows a school district to designate itself as a District of Innovation (DOI). This label allows the district to circumvent certain laws such as those that require educators to be certified. Charter schools have long been able to hire non-certified classroom teachers; however, traditional public schools are still required to hire certified educators unless the district is a DOI. We know that having access to an effective educator is one of the most important aspects of a child’s academic success, and Texas is now making it easier for untrained individuals to teach in the classroom.

Are Small Class Sizes Beneficial to Student Learning?

If So, Why Is the State Pushing Schools toward Larger Classes? Even though repeated studies and numerous data prove that smaller student-to-teacher class-size ratios are beneficial to student academic growth, Texas lawmakers have not seriously pursued reducing class sizes or expanding the grades to which those limits apply since class-size limits were initially instituted. Instead, in 2011, the legislature made it easier for school districts to get waivers to circumvent class-size limits. Further, in 2015, the DOI law was created, allowing districts to wholly exempt themselves from class-size limits.

Should Schools Be Run by Private Corporations?

The lieutenant governor says that one of his highest priorities for the 2017 legislative session is to pass a school voucher bill. Aside from taking public tax dollars away from public schools and diverting them to private schools with no accountability, legislators have proposed allowing private management of certain existing public schools, taking their control away from locally elected school boards.

Many more questions should be asked and addressed, such as: Should you be evaluated based on how your students perform on standardized tests? Should educators have contracts? Should you have access to affordable healthcare benefits and a pension? Should state leaders make it more difficult for educators to join professional associations by trying to take away your right to payroll deduction?

The people we elect get to make choices that affect our children and our daily lives. We should be asking ourselves if the choices being made regarding public education in Texas are acceptable. If the answer is “no,” then we must demand better.

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