The editorial board of The Dallas Morning News was wondering the other day: “Why does the A-F campus report card have superintendents in such a tizzy?”
“Tizzy” may not be a strong enough word to express the outrage that many superintendents feel – or should feel — over this latest effort by the legislative majority to transfer the blame for their own failures and neglect of public schools to educators who actually are helping many school children improve their lives.
The scheme to label individual schools with an A through F grade, beginning with the 2017-18 school year, will do absolutely nothing to improve educational quality in Texas. But it will unfairly place a stigma of failure on low-income children in property poor school districts, where most of the Ds and Fs will be posted. Here’s why:
# Some 55 percent of the grading model for a school’s letter grade will be based on STAAR test scores, which persistently have been lower among low-income, minority children.
# Another 35 percent of a school’s grade will be determined by such factors as attendance and graduation and dropout rates, which also are heavily affected by poverty. That’s 90 percent, and it’s loaded against disadvantaged kids.
The legislative majority adopted this scheme to help provide cover for its own policy failures, beginning with a refusal to adequately and fairly fund public education, and to make it easier to declare neighborhood schools “failures,” clearing the way to have them taken over by corporate, for-profit charter companies.
# Some 38 percent of Texas school districts received less state and local funding per student in 2015 than they did in 2011, when the legislative majority slashed $5.4 billion from public school budgets. Texas now pays about $2,700 less per child than the national average.
# The Legislature pays for only about 43 percent of school operating expenses, with local property taxpayers kicking in the rest, including Robin Hood transfers from districts that aren’t really wealthy to districts that are even poorer. The state even uses some of these local Robin Hood tax dollars to pay for other programs.
# The same legislators who persist in shortchanging education also insist on under-funding health care and other programs that are crucial to ensuring that a low-income child is able to attend school and function effectively in the classroom. Everyday, educators work tirelessly to help kids like these who have been neglected by policymakers who now want to slap an “F” on their neighborhood school doors.
That’s a shameful act of cowardice, and educators – superintendents, principals and teachers – have every right to be in a “tizzy.” So do parents.