Thursday, March 31, 2005

Comment: HB 2 Would Sharpen School Results

Grusendorf makes the following comment: "It is not true that HB 2 would be a vehicle for profit-making companies to take over schools. Nothing could be further from the truth...." I find it so problematic that a state official can be so openly far from being truthful to the public. This bill needs to be read in the context of voucher legislation that Grusendorf supports. -Angela

Comment: HB 2 Would Sharpen School Results
03/31/2005 12:00 AM CST

by Kent Grusendorf
Chair, House Committee on Public Education

I've read with amazement editorials and articles slamming House Bill 2, education reform legislation that I authored and call a Roadmap to Results.

In most cases, the writers attended few public hearings where we discussed innovative measures to improve education. They didn't contact me or HB 2 supporters to gain insight into the intent of the legislation. They seemingly relied on criticism generated by lobbyists with financial interests.

As chairman of the House Public Education Committee, I opened the hearings to any interested individuals with ideas or concerns about how we should deliver the best education to more than 4 million children. We heard from hundreds of Texans who testified in writing or in person. No point of view was ignored.

It is not true that HB 2 would be a vehicle for profit-making companies to take over schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our legislation would ensure no child is trapped in a school that is doing a poor job.

Under HB 2, the state would crack down on low-performing campuses by requiring the commissioner of education to send in a team to turn around bad schools after the first year of poor performance. If a school continued to fail children a second year, the commissioner could move more aggressively and assign a new management team with a proven record for improving academic performance. Qualified nonprofits, including teams of teachers, parents or university professionals, would be among those considered for the turnaround efforts.

A mandate for getting tough with failing schools is among many HB 2 reforms that would create efficiency and accountability.

HB 2 would add more than $3 billion in new money for education, one of the greatest state increases in history. More important, we would spend those dollars more wisely.

Too many education dollars are spent on top-heavy school bureaucracies. HB 2 would require new financial reporting and accountability so parents will know how much money is spent in classrooms and funneled into management. Parents and taxpayers would be able to look at a Texas Education Agency Web site and see exactly how their money is being spent.

Our legislation would empower taxpayers by requiring administrators to justify the need for more money when they ask voters to approve higher school property taxes. We would encourage greater participation in school board elections by moving them to November, when voter turnout is higher.

Colleges of business would teach principals and superintendents to spend money more efficiently through advanced management programs. An online, best-practices clearinghouse would allow districts to share success stories so they don't waste time and money duplicating efforts.

The state would improve high school learning and college readiness by paying for SAT and ACT testing and phasing in end-of-course exams.

Right now, we teach children and assess their progress much as we did in the 1950s. HB 2 would change that by trading pencil-and-paper exams for online testing that allows teachers to more quickly evaluate student progress. We're adding money to help schools pay for new, computer-driven materials.

One of our most critical missions is to close the achievement gap for minority students. This bill would provide $100 million to do that. The money would be used as an incentive for our best teachers to work on campuses with a majority of at-risk students.

Under HB 2, school districts would use 1 percent of their budgets to reward exceptional teachers through performance pay plans. Teachers would help design the plans to spend the money in three ways: on bonuses for experienced teachers who serve as mentors for beginning instructors; on bonuses for outstanding teachers at educationally disadvantaged campuses; and to recognize exceptional teachers or employees who improve student performance on a campus or grade level.

The bottom line for our Roadmap to Results is this: Money is important, but how the money is spent is even more important. HB 2 would direct schools to use education dollars more effectively. It would empower taxpayers, propel academic achievement and lead to results. And results are what we're all after.

Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, is chairman of the House Public Education Committee.

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