Would Gov. Greg Abbott and his education commissioner retroactively change the school accountability rules to make public schools look bad and fan more support for private school vouchers? That question is being asked, and the fact that it is being asked says a lot about how far the governor’s reputation in the public education community has plummeted over the past few years. Not that it was golden to begin with.
Educators remember Abbott’s public accusations of “pornography” in school libraries, his support of book bans, his rule against school mask mandates during the pandemic and his refusal to even consider the mildest form of gun reform after an attacker used an assault rifle to kill 19 children and two teachers at a Uvalde elementary school.
And now, after stiffing public education of additional funding during three previous legislative sessions this year, the governor has made it clear that his top priority for the next session will be vouchers and the profits of private school operators, not the needs of public schools or the underpaid educators who work in them.
Small wonder the accountability rule change proposed by his appointee, Commissioner Mike Morath, has created such a stir. Morath has said he intends to significantly change the calculation of one of the elements that determine school districts’ A-F grades. He plans to raise the “cut scores” for College, Career and Military Readiness of students who already have graduated by more than 20 points when the new A-F ratings are released next month.
Under the new scoring, many districts expect to see their scores fall at least one letter grade, even if their performance improved. This has angered many districts. Some have sued the Texas Education Agency to block any retroactive changes in the scoring criteria, and many legislators also have objected to the commissioner’s plan.
Why would the commissioner change the rules in the middle of the game? What educational purpose could that possibly serve?
Maybe, as some educators suspect, the reason is political, since the new A-F grades will be released shortly before Abbott’s special session on vouchers is expected to convene. Are the governor and the commissioner changing the rules to arbitrarily lower A-F scores, claim public schools are “failures” and promote more support for vouchers?
What do you think?