Month: <span>May 2016</span>

More problems with education “reform”


Here’s another reason against being too eager to contract education “reform” fever – high school graduation rates.

In a new report released this week by a consortium of groups promoting the goal of graduating more high school students on time – that is, within four years – two darlings of the “reform” movement – charter and virtual schools – came up short.

Nationally, according to the “Building a Grad Nation” report, charter schools, which accounted for only 8 percent of all U.S. high schools, accounted for 30 percent of high schools that failed to graduate more than 67 percent of their students on time at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

Virtual schools were even worse. Virtual schools accounted for only 1 percent of high schools in the country but accounted for 87 percent of the high schools with failing graduation rates. We all should be grateful that a legislative proposal last year to dump millions of tax dollars into virtual charters failed, following intense lobbying against it by TSTA and other public education advocates.

Some virtual operators would have made off like bandits, while thousands of Texas kids would have been victimized. The same operators, however, will be back before the Legislature next session, holding their hands out again, so the fight will continue.

Charters, virtual and alternative high schools combined accounted for 52 percent of the high schools with graduation rates of 67 percent or less, although collectively they accounted for only 14 percent of the country’s high schools.

Alternative schools and some charters have high proportions of low-income, at-risk students. But so do traditional public schools. About 60 percent of Texas’ public school enrollment, for example, is low-income. But the legislative majority continues to under-fund them at a rate about $2,700 below the per-student national average.

Traditional public high schools accounted for 84 percent of all U.S. high schools and only 7 percent of high schools with graduation rates of 67 percent or less in 2013-14.

Kicking the kids down the road


When postponing the correct budgetary choice – which they often do – Texas legislators sometimes talk about “kicking the can down the road,” or putting off for another 10 or 20 years what they should do now. This past session, a more-accurate characterization of what the legislative majority did would be “kicking the kids down the road.”

Under-funded public schools and an under-funded foster care system are among numerous examples of this attitude that can be found in the current state budget. And the lengthy Texas Tribune story linked below describes another example, harmful cuts – worth about $350 million in state and federal funds — to the state’s Early Childhood Intervention Program.

This program provides essential services to children with significant health and development problems, and their number is growing. But these kids’ and their families’ cries were drowned out last year by the business community’s demands for tax reductions and the tea party’s demands for spending cuts.

The children and their needs, however, aren’t going away. Pretty soon, many of them will be in public school classrooms, and they will continue to need special attention, maybe even more attention as they grow older.

“As ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) services take a hit, our elementary schools should plan on providing expensive special education to more students,” said Stephanie Rubin, the chief executive of Texans Care for Children, an advocacy group.

Schools and educators, although under-funded, will be ready. But there is something inherently wrong with a state policy that would rather “kick kids down the road” than address their needs now.