Earlier this week I put forth my plan to bring sweeping change to our K-12 education. There will be much more to come during the session. The following outline and narrative is an overview of what I presented on Tuesday at St Mary’s Catholic School in Austin.
Since being appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I have been hard at work preparing a legislative agenda that will allow our public education to meet today’s demands. Texas schools are educating 4.9 million students and grow with about 80,000 new students each year.
Texas has approximately 135,000 students in public charters schools, with an estimated 100,000 on the waiting list. Of the 8,526 K-12 campuses in Texas, 496 were rated unacceptable. Those campuses teach over 300,000 students in our larger cities. The previous year, only 84 out of 8,435 drew this failing rating. This rapid growth along with technological innovation means that reform is never finished and success is never final.
I have traveled the state and met with hundreds of superintendents, business leaders, teachers, and parents. What I have heard everywhere is that schools want more flexibility, businesses want a better trained workforce, and parents want more options. Below I have outlined my education reform goals that encompass four main areas: Accountability, Choice, Charter, and Workforce Development. I hope you will join me in advocating for these changes by sharing your support with your State Representative and Senator:
Improve the accountability of our schools and students by creating additional flexibility.
Replace Unacceptable-Exemplary system with an A-F grading system for school districts and campuses. Grant the Education Commissioner the authority to take over school districts after 2 years of failing performance.
Revise parent trigger statute, giving parents authority to make changes in their school after 2 years of failing performance.
Allow districts to determine how they will use the STAAR End-of-Course (EOC) exam for up to 15% of a student’s grade.
Reduce the number of tests required for graduation based on the needs of colleges and the workforce with emphasis on Math and English.
Give districts an automatic waiver to begin school 5 days earlier than current start date.
Increase the availability and quality of Charter Schools.
Raise the current cap on the number of charters by 20 per year.
Allow unlimited number of charters to be approved by regional service centers after training from National Association of Charter Authorizes.
Improve the ability of the Education Commissioner to shut down poor performing or financially unstable charters.
Allow school districts to become Home Rule Charters or to designate any school a charter by the vote of the board.
Expand student and parent choice in schools.
Allow students to attend any public school of their choice in or out of their district based on capacity.
Create an Opportunity Scholarship program that provides means-tested scholarships to students to attend the private schools of their choice funded by business tax deductions.
Create choice brokers to help advise parents and students of the choices available to them for private and charter schools.
Modernize high school to reflect today’s workforce by placing career pathways on the same level as college readiness.
Restructure graduation plan to one diploma called the Texas Foundation Diploma; with student selected specialties in STEM, Liberal Arts, Career and Business and Administration, as well as academically distinguished.• Repeal requirement that state colleges/universities can only accept students with a Recommended or Distinguished Diploma.
Create more flexibility to enable certain rigorous applied Career/Tech courses to satisfy graduation requirements.
Encourage industry to create specific workforce courses for districts.
Relax restrictions on teacher certification for CTE courses if teacher has work experience in that field and would be approved at the Community College level.
Create more dual credit courses so students can complete career certificates faster.
Create more flexibility for students to take rigorous applied Career/Technical courses that satisfy graduation requirements.
Improve the use of technology.
Direct commissioner to assess the ability of school districts to connect to the internet for on-line courses.
Enable middle and high school students to take rigorous academic courses from our best teachers and universities through an expande3d online learning program.
Increase number of on-line courses that can be taught with an assisting teacher in the room.
Please join me in fighting to make our education system the envy of the world as we prepare students for college and career. Our children deserve the best.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, leads Texas Senate’s Education Committee