Teachers help design most successful schools

Teachers have been instrumental in designing and developing the most successful education systems in the world, including Finland’s highly touted program, an internationally known educational consultant told a Select House-Senate legislative committee studying Texas’ school finance system.

Andres Schleicher of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Monday that many countries with high performing education systems have strong teacher unions, and policymakers value and listen to their professional expertise. There is a lot of interaction between teacher unions and government officials in those countries, he said.

Finland and other countries whose students score higher than most American students on educational measurement tests also have strong teacher preparation and professional development programs in which teachers are actively involved. Those countries, he said, make teaching an “attractive profession” and make a “high investment” in its teachers.

Finland and other countries also provide more money to schools with students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than they provide schools in wealthier areas, Schleicher said.

Schleicher’s comments about governmental commitment to successful schools were in sharp contrast to the reality of what happened in Texas last year, when the governor and the legislative majority ignored the pleas of educators and slashed $5.4 billion from public school budgets.

When the Select committee was appointed, it was charged with helping the Legislature prepare for another court ruling on school finance. Following last year’s legislative session, several hundred school districts sued the state, arguing the school finance system is inadequate and inequitable.
The lawsuit — only the latest in a series of school finance suits in recent years — is scheduled to go to trial this fall before a state district judge in Austin, but it may be a year or longer before appeals are finally settled by the Texas Supreme Court. And, the Legislature is not likely to act to change the system until after the Supreme Court rules.