Most Texas school districts are getting more state funding, teachers all over the state are getting pay raises and one school privatization group in Austin, which thinks it knows more about education than educators do, doesn’t like it.
This, of course, would be the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a pro-voucher, pro-testing outfit that believes teacher pay should largely be based on test scores. During the legislative session earlier this year, TPPF’s senior policy advisor, Kara Belew, told the media an across-the-board teacher pay raise would be “wasteful.”
The Legislature didn’t approve across-the-board raises, but it did provide extra funding and order school districts to provide raises without tying them to STAAR scores.
The raises aren’t big enough, but many teachers soon will have enough extra cash to “waste” on things like health care, groceries, student loan payments, child care, rent, car payments or maybe a vacation or an extra night out.
The Legislature increased per-student funding by several hundred dollars and also provided extra money for critical programs like full-day, pre-kindergarten for low-income children and students with dyslexia and other special needs.
And TPPF is grousing because, as Belew writes in a new oped, the districts can spend a lot of the money “nearly as they wish.”
Imagine that, locally elected school boards and educators being allowed to decide how to best spend education money for education programs, rather than have to “earn” extra dollars through improved STAAR scores or some other data-driven formula.
Some mistakes may be made, but that is what school board elections are for. And public school educators, as a whole, are a better judge of what works in the classroom than a so-called “think tank” in Austin that has consistently promoted the under-funding of public schools in favor of privatization.
TPPF argues that there is no evidence that extra funding alone will improve student performance. Extra funding, though, will provide additional resources, including pay raises, that will encourage more teachers to stay in the classroom and allow some districts to take steps like reducing class sizes. These are the kind of improvements that will improve student performance, not more STAAR testing.
Extra funding hasn’t helped in the past, TPPF argues. The truth is that Texas’ public education system has been woefully under-funded for years, and so have the health care and social support systems so crucial to academic success for the low-income students who now account for more than half of our public school enrollment.
What the Legislature did this session is only a down payment on real school finance reform. Lawmakers must provide more resources – not test-driven “incentives” – the next time they meet.