Day: <span>June 12, 2013</span>

“Best” legislators were education supporters


You may or may not agree with all the choices on Texas Monthly’s just-released list of Ten Best and Ten Worst Legislators, but I think Paul Burka and his crew were dead-on accurate in drawing a huge distinction between the lead lawmakers on public education.

House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock made the “best” list, and Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick was rated among the “worst.” Amen.

Although the magazine hasn’t published the reasons for its evaluations yet, the major differences between the two during the recent regular legislative session are easy to document.

Aycock, a Republican from Killeen, was the primary sponsor of House Bill 5, the new law overhauling high school graduation requirements and reducing the insanity of high-stakes standardized testing. It reduces end-of-course exams for high school students from 15 to five.

Aycock also voted for the new state budget bills restoring almost $4 billion of the $5.4 billion cut from public school budgets two years ago, and he attempted to slow the greedy drive toward school privatization. He let it be known early on that there was little stomach in the House for private school vouchers, and he tried – although with limited success – to slow down the expansion of privately operated charter schools.

Aycock listened to the concerns of educators — the real education experts — not just to ambitious school profiteers disguised as self-styled “reformers.”

On the other side of the Capitol, though, Senate Education Chairman Patrick operated in a different world. The Republican from Houston called himself an “educational evangelist.” In truth, he was a privatization huckster.

His top priority was siphoning tax dollars from public schools – where most students get their educations — for vouchers, which would have benefited a handful of kids while enriching private school owners at taxpayer expense.

Unable to get any traction for that bad idea, Patrick focused his attention – with some success — on expanding charter schools. Charters, on average, don’t perform as well as traditional neighborhood schools in state ratings, but Patrick’s success in winning enactment of his Senate Bill 2 will allow more private operators of charters to dip into the state treasury.

And, adding insult to injury for public school students and employees, Patrick voted against the state budget that restored much of the education funding he voted to cut two years ago.

I find it interesting that other members of the “Ten Best” list include Speaker Joe Straus, who made education funding a priority at the beginning of the session, and Rep. Jim Pitts of Waxahachie and Sen. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands, the two budget-writing chairmen.

Receiving a special “Bull of the Brazos” award was Rep. Sylvester of Houston, a champion of public schools and education funding.

Eight on the “Ten Best” list were supported by TSTA during last year’s elections. They were Aycock, Pitts, Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen, Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio.

To see both lists, click on this link: