Month: <span>January 2016</span>

Many private colleges will ban guns


Unlike state-supported universities, private universities will still have the option to ban handguns from their campuses when the new campus carry law goes into effect Aug. 1, and at least half of Texas’ private colleges already have said “no” to guns.

According to The Texas Tribune, which is keeping track of their decisions in the article linked below, 19 of 38 private colleges and universities surveyed in Texas already have officially imposed the bans.

They are, in alphabetical order, Abilene Christian University, Austin College, Huston-Tillotson University, Jarvis Christian College, Paul Quinn College, Rice University, South Texas College of Law, Southern Methodist University, Southwestern Christian College, Southwestern University, St. Edward’s University, St. Mary’s University, Texas Christian University, Texas College, Texas Lutheran University, the University of St. Thomas, the University of the Incarnate Word, Wayland Baptist University and Wiley College.

The list is expected to grow between now and Aug. 1 since the other universities on the list or still deliberating the issue or haven’t taken official action. Officials for a few schools, including Baylor and Trinity University, already have publicly said they expect guns will be banned on their campuses as well.

No school on the list – so far — has announced that guns will be allowed.

“There is no evidence that allowing the carrying of guns on campus will make the campus safer,” the Tribune quotes Rice President David Leebron.

That same comment could apply to all the state-supported universities in Texas as well, but public universities will be forced to allow licensed pistol holders to carry their firearms, concealed, onto most campus areas. Debate continues over what areas can be designated as “gun-free zones,” but the zones will be pretty restricted.

Many college administrators, even at state-supported universities, just don’t buy the line that guns will improve campus safety. Unfortunately, though, most legislators did.



Another poor report on Texas school funding


Most adults – except those who reside in Fantasyland (which apparently includes some of our state leaders) – recognize that sufficient funding is a critical factor in the success of our public schools. And, I am not talking about vouchers and other pie-in-the-sky privatization schemes, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the mayor of Fantasyland, announced only yesterday that he will try again to revive.

I am talking about taxpayer dollars earmarked for the support of students attending neighborhood public schools, and still another report reminds us that Texas is doing a lousy job. Education Week, in its latest annual “Quality Counts” report, gives Texas policymakers a big fat “D” for school finance, a ranking of 45th in the nation.

The ranking, based on 2013 expenditures, is tempered a little by the fact that Texas is credited with doing a little better (but not much) than other states on equalization between property poor and rich districts. Based on per-pupil spending alone, Texas is ranked 49th, even worse than previous rankings compiled by the National Education Association.

The Education Week figures, after adjustment for regional cost differences, show Texas spending about $3,700 less per student than the national average. According to the National Education Association, which did not adjust for regional cost differences, Texas spent almost $2,400 less per student than the national average in 2013-14.

Even as many school districts continued to struggle to recover from the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts that Patrick and other members of the legislative majority approved in 2011, Patrick and his cohorts left several billion dollars unspent when they wrote the new state budget last spring. And, they are hoping the Texas Supreme Court will reverse a lower court order for lawmakers to draft an adequate, fair and constitutional school finance system.

Patrick is a school privateer whose plan is this. Under-fund the public school system, declare it a “failure” and then privatize, beginning with the diversion of tax dollars to pay for private school vouchers. He calls them tax credit scholarships. Waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck. They will transfer tax money to private schools. They are vouchers.

Education Week’s grade of “D” on Texas school finance may have been generous. Patrick would make it worse.





New education commissioner saying the right words, but…


Mike Morath, who took office this week as the new state education commissioner, so far is mostly saying the right things. He says he is “committed to ensuring that our education system provides all the children of Texas the opportunity to be successful in life.” And, he promises to support educators.

But, then, would we really expect the new education commissioner to dash into office bad-mouthing teachers and assuring us he will do his best to help only some of the children – the lucky ones — find their way to success?

His words are fine, but, as I have noted before, some of the unproven schemes he promoted as a school board member in Dallas ISD don’t live up to the promise. For instance, he was instrumental in the adoption of a teacher evaluation system partly tied to test scores. This system will ensure that many teachers in DISD will not get the credit, recognition and compensation they deserve for making the kinds of contributions to children’s lives that can’t be measured by test scores or other similar, data-driven factors.

Children, their accomplishments and their prospects cannot be reduced to their ability to take a test, a fact that parents and educators have long known and which finally dawned on a bipartisan majority of Congress when it recdently voted to repeal the test-heavy No Child Left Behind Act.

The accomplishments and value of educators cannot be reduced to test scores either, which is why the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), strongly encourages states and school districts to measure student success and teacher accomplishments with a broad array of more-meaningful factors, such as graduation and college admittance rates, course grades and student success in pre-AP courses.

As state education commissioner, Morath must work with educators and parents to advocate for what is best for all of Texas’ 5.2 million school children. For starters, here are three things he can do to show he truly is committed to supporting educators and giving every student an opportunity at success:

# Follow the spirit of ESSA and remove STAAR scores from the new teacher evaluation system the Texas Education Agency is working to develop.

# Come out strongly against private school vouchers, expansion of corporate charters and other privatization schemes that would cherry pick a small minority of students for success while undermining the neighborhood public schools where the vast majority of Texas children will continue to be educated. These schemes also include the “home rule” school district concept that Morath also supported in Dallas. It would have allowed DISD to be operated without important state educational standards or employment protections for school employees and was killed by a local citizens commission who, unlike Morath, recognized it for the bad idea that it was – and still is.

# Be an outspoken advocate for an adequate and fair school funding system, something the governor and the legislative majority refuse to recognize as a necessity to universal student success.

The words are fine. Now, Morath needs to back them up.