Democrats for Education Reform

Bipartisan legislative trouble looming for public schools


The attack on public schools in Texas is likely to escalate during next year’s legislative session, and it will come from both Republicans and Democrats calling themselves “reformers.” The Texas Observer has a good overview, linked below, about two high-dollar, deliberately misnamed groups that have been preparing for the session by spreading cash in this year’s political races.

One is Texans for Education Reform, about which I have written before. This is an offshoot of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a conservative, business group that has successfully lobbied for laws giving its members protection from lawsuits by aggrieved customers and other consumers. Technically, Texans for Lawsuit Reform hasn’t completely banned consumers from Texas courtrooms, but not for a lack of trying.

The group’s new incarnation, Texans for Education Reform, will be pushing for school privatization schemes, including expansion of corporate-run charter schools and online learning, to further enrich some of its contributors.

Now, another group with a similar agenda, Democrats for Education Reform, is moving into Texas. This comes just as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a Democratic appointee, is putting the squeeze on Texas to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores. Research has consistently found that standardized testing is neither a fair nor effective way to educate children or evaluate teacher performances, but it is a sure-fire way to enrich companies with test preparation contracts. And, the so-called education “reform” groups likely will be advocating for this as well.

According to the Observer, a spokeswoman for Texans for Education Reform declined to discuss the group’s specific legislative goals for next year. She did say the group would lobby for “research-proven reforms that empower parents, reinforce local control and provide pathways for intervention in chronically failing schools within a morally responsible timeline.”

But research contradicts the “reformers.” Charter schools are no better or worse, on average, than traditional public schools, and they take money from neighborhood schools, where most children will continue to be educated. And, studies have shown that test scores don’t accurately measure teacher effectiveness.

So, how morally responsible is it to use unproven privatization programs to undermine neighborhood public schools?