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Thursday, June 28, 2007

States Found to Vary Widely on Education

Just came across this important piece. Too much to read. -Angela

States Found to Vary Widely on Education
Posted by Dad on 6/08/07

June 8, 2007
States Found to Vary Widely on Education
By TAMAR LEWIN

Academic standards vary so drastically from state to state
that a fourth grader judged proficient in reading in
Mississippi or Tennessee would fall far short of that mark
in Massachusetts and South Carolina, the United States
Department of Education said yesterday in a report that,
for the first time, measured the extent of the
differences.

The wide variation raises questions about whether the
federal No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s
signature education initiative, which is up for renewal
this year, has allowed a patchwork of educational
inequities around the country, with no common yardstick to
determine whether schoolchildren are learning enough.

The law requires that all students be brought to
proficiency by 2014 in reading and math and creates
sanctions for failure. But in a bow to states’ rights it
lets each state set its own standards and choose its own
tests.

The report provides ammunition for critics who say that
one national standard is needed. “Parents and communities
in too many states are being told not to worry, all is
well, when their students are far behind,” said Michael J.
Petrilli, a vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham
Foundation who served in the Education Department during
Mr. Bush’s first term.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a
statement, “This report offers sobering news that serious
work remains to ensure that our schools are teaching
students to the highest possible standards.” Still, in a
conference call with reporters, she said it was up to the
states, not the federal government, to raise standards.

The report for the first time creates a common yardstick
to measure the results on state tests against the National
Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the gold
standard of testing.

The report examines the minimum score a student would have
to get on each state’s reading and math tests to be deemed
proficient — or at grade level — and then determines what
the equivalent score for that level of competency would be
on the national test. Results on the national test are not
used to judge schools under No Child Left Behind.

The national test divides students’ scores into three
achievement levels, basic, proficient and advanced. Grover
J. Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education
Sciences at the Education Department, said the achievement
level that many states called proficient was closer to
what the national test rated as just basic. And the report
shows that not a single state sets its reading proficiency
levels as high as the national test.

Although results were not available for all states, the
Education Department report based on tests given in the
2004-5 school year illustrated starkly the variations in
standards.

For example, an eighth grader in Missouri would need the
equivalent of a 311 on the national math test to be judged
proficient. That is actually more rigorous than the
national test. In Tennessee, however, a student can meet
the state’s proficiency standard with a 230, a score well
below even the basic level on the national exam.

And while a Massachusetts fourth grader would need the
equivalent of a 234, or just below the proficiency mark on
the national test, to be judged as proficient by the
state, a Mississippi fourth grader can meet the state’s
standard with a state score that corresponds to a 161 on
the national test.

Such score differences represent a gap of several grade
levels. New York ranked 9th in grade 4 reading, in terms
of the rigor of its standards. Its proficiency standards
corresponded to 207 on the national test. It ranked third
in grade 8 reading. But it was toward the bottom, 29th
among 33 states in grade 4 math. And it was 13th in grade
8 math.

New York has since approved new math standards. “The
results in reading are positive for New York relative to
other states, but math is mixed,” State Education
Commissioner Richard Mills said. “The comparison reminds
us of the need over time to keep raising standards and
providing extra help to students.”

The report found that eighth graders in North Carolina had
to show the least skill to be considered proficient
readers while those in Wyoming had to show the most skill.
Tennessee set the lowest bar on grade 4 math while
Massachusetts set the highest one.

The differences between state proficiency standards were
sometimes more than double the national gap between
minority and white students’ reading levels, which
averages about 30 points on the national test, Mr.
Whitehurst said.

Many education experts criticize No Child Left Behind,
saying it gives states an incentive to set low standards
to avoid sanctions on schools that do not increase the
percentage of students demonstrating proficiency each
year. Those experts argue that uniform national standards
are needed.

But Congress is unlikely to go that far. Ms. Spellings
said, “It’s way too early to conclude we need to adopt
national standards” and added that it is also too early to
conclude that state standards are too low.

On Tuesday, a survey of state scores in reading and math,
released by the Center on Education Policy, an independent
Washington group, found that since the passage of No Child
Left Behind in 2002, student achievement had increased and
the racial achievement gap narrowed in many states.

Ms. Spellings said the results showed the law has “struck
a chord of success.” Her department’s report, though,
raises doubts about just how much progress has been made.

Mr. Petrilli said, “Even if students are making progress
on state tests, if tests are incredibly easy, that doesn’t
mean much.”

Monday, June 25, 2007

VOUCHERS STRIKE OUT AGAIN

I just got this analysis from Gerald Bracey. It's worth posting. -Angela

New York, Dayton, Washington, D. C., Cleveland, Milwaukee, Florida, and now Washington again. Kids who use publicly or privately funded vouchers to attend private schools don’t do any better in school than matched groups of public school children. You wonder how many at bats these guys are going to get. I guess when the club owners are people like George W. Bush, John Boehner, and James Leininger the answer is “infinite” (Leininger spent millions trying to influence voting in Texas to stack a legislature that would give him the vouchers he’s been chasing for 20 years. See Chapter 2, James Leininger, Sugar Daddy of the Religious Right in The Anatomy of Power: Texas and the Religious Right in 2006. Put the title in Google).

I guess if the names are George F. Will, Paul Peterson, or Joe Bast (Heartland Institute), the answer is also infinite simply due their infinite hatred for the National Education Association. Freud would have a field day with these guys.

The latest Washington debacle has to be especially disappointing to voucher proponents simply because it’s the latest. You’d think they would have learned something from all those earlier tryouts I named earlier.

Maggie Spellings was her usual inelegant self: “The report’s findings are in step with rigorous studies of other voucher programs which have not typically found impacts on student achievement in the first year. We know that parents are pleased with the success of the program in providing effective education alternatives.” And just how might you be defining “effective” Ms. Spellings?

Paul, when-the-going-gets-tough-the-Right-gets-Peterson, Peterson echoed Spellings “Kids lose ground when they change schools. Even if they may be in a better school, they’re not going to adjust right off the bat.” Well, Paul, live and learn, I guess. This is the first time I’ve heard you or any other voucher vulture invoke adjustment as an excuse for the poor showing.

And he and Maggie are wrong. Peterson’s own data show them wrong. Peterson claimed sizeable first year gains in Cleveland. Of course, he used fall-to-spring testing and had no control group so it wasn’t exactly a randomized field trial. Later, better studies by Kim Metcalf and a team from Indiana University found the public school kids starting out behind and catching up even though white students were overrepresented in the voucher groups.

In Peterson’s studies in Dayton and DC, Peterson got a “significant” effect in math—at the .10 level, a level not used by most researchers. By the second year, math had moved up to .05. Reading never showed any gain and by the third year everything had washed out.

Amit Paley’s article in the Washington Post says the Bush administration will attempt to expend vouchers nationwide in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. No doubt. Bush had them in there to start with, lost them to Kennedy, and was unable to get them reinserted despite six old college tries by Boehner.

But, hey, in a faith-based administration (see Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt”, New York Times Magazine October 17, 2004) what’s a little negative data among prayer-mates?

Amit Paley, “Voucher Students Show Few Gains in First Year.” Washington Post, June 22, 2007, p. B1.

Voucher Use in Washington Wins Praise of Parents

Voucher Use in Washington Wins Praise of Parents

By SAM DILLON / June 22, 2007 / NYTimes

Students who participated in the first year of the District of Columbia’s federally financed school voucher program did not show significantly higher math or reading achievement, but their parents were satisfied anyway, viewing the private schools they attended at taxpayer expense as safer and better than public schools, according to an Education Department study released yesterday.

The students themselves painted a picture different from that of their parents, though, feeling neither more satisfied nor safer than did students attending public schools.

“The program had a substantial positive impact on parents’ views of school safety, but not on students’ actual school experiences with dangerous activities,” the study said.

A Republican-controlled Congress established the voucher program, for Grades K through 12, in 2004. Over the last three years it has provided scholarships of up to $7,500 annually to cover tuition, fees and transportation expenses for each of about 1,800 poor children to attend private school. About 90 percent of the participating students have been African-American, and an additional 9 percent Hispanic, according to the Congressionally mandated study.

The results were eagerly awaited, because studies of similar programs elsewhere, in cities including Cleveland, Milwaukee and Dayton, had not produced definitive conclusions about whether vouchers significantly increased the academic achievement of students who previously attended public schools.

The new research found that in the Washington program’s first academic year, 2004-5, it “generated no statistically significant impacts, positive or negative, on student reading or math achievement.”

But Grover J. Whitehurst, director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Education Department agency that oversaw the study, told reporters yesterday that it was too early to tell whether the program would significantly affect student achievement. The students had been attending private schools for an average of less than a year when they were tested for the study, not much time for their new academic environment to affect performance.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement, “The report’s findings are in step with rigorous studies of other voucher programs, which have not typically found impacts on student achievement in the first year.”

Because the number of students who have applied for the program exceeds the number of available scholarships, or the number of seats available to them in the 58 participating private schools, eligible students have been chosen by lottery. As a result, researchers were able to study two randomly selected groups: one of scholarship recipients and another of students rejected by the lottery who continued to attend public schools. The researchers, led by Patrick J. Wolf, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, compared the academic outcomes of the two groups, as well as their perception, and that of their parents, toward their schools.

About two-thirds of the participating students attended parochial schools operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; the rest attended other private schools. The $7,500 scholarship that families spent was about half the average public expenditure per student in the District of Columbia public schools.

Parents of students using the vouchers were significantly more likely to give the school their child attended a grade of A or B than were parents of students rejected by the lottery, the study found.

Joseph P. Viteritti, a professor of public policy at Hunter College, said those findings were consistent with studies of other voucher programs.

“To me,” Mr. Viteritti said, “it just means that parents are happy to have a choice.”

But Clive R. Belfield, an economics professor at the City University of New York who has studied voucher programs, noted the new report’s finding that of the 1,027 students who entered the Washington program in the fall of 2004, only 788 remained in it by the fall of 2006.

“That’s quite a bit of attrition,” Mr. Belfield said. “If parents are so satisfied, why have about 20 percent of the students left the program?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/22/washington/22vouchers.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1182818280-M+G1NV2DZVgjK77HrVoniQ

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Voucher Students Show Few Gains in First Year

Voucher Students Show Few Gains in First Year
D.C. Results Typical, Federal Study Says
By Amit R. Paley and Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 22, 2007; B01

Students in the D.C. school voucher program, the first federal initiative to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition, generally performed no better on reading and math tests after one year in the program than their peers in public schools, the U.S. Education Department said yesterday.

The department's report, which researchers said is an early snapshot, found only a few exceptions to the conclusion that the program has not yet had a significant impact on achievement: Students who moved from higher-performing public schools to private schools and those who scored well on tests before entering the program performed better in math than their peers who stayed in public school.

The results are likely to inflame a national debate about using public money for private education. Many Democrats, who have long opposed such programs, seized on the study as evidence that vouchers are ineffective.

"Vouchers have received a failing grade," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). "This just makes the voucher program even more irrelevant."

But Republicans and other voucher supporters said it is too soon to judge.

"The report's findings are in step with rigorous studies of other voucher programs which have not typically found impacts on student achievement in the first year," U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement. "We know that parents are pleased with the success of the program in providing effective education alternatives."

A Republican-led Congress created the $14 million-a-year program in 2004. The five-year initiative provides $7,500 vouchers each year to 1,800 students, from kindergartners to high school seniors, who attend 58 private schools, most of them Catholic schools. Participants must live in the District and come from low-income families. Advocates say the program offers an alternative to the troubled D.C. public schools.

Known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, the initiative is one of the few government-run voucher systems in the country. Milwaukee and Ohio have similar plans, and Florida and Arizona offer vouchers to special education students.

In studies of those programs and others funded with private money, researchers tended to find little improvement in test scores after one year, said Paul Peterson, director of Harvard University's program on education policy and governance. He said it takes time for students to adjust to new surroundings.

"Kids lose ground when they change schools. Even if they may be in a better school, they're not going to adjust to that right off the bat," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight. It's a slow process."

Former D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and former Ward 7 D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, early advocates of the program, reiterated their support.

"We welcome the release of this 'early look' at the program's performance," they said in a statement signed by community and business leaders. "Although these findings reflect just seven months of schooling -- typically far too short a time period to see any significant academic progress -- there is an early indication of gains in math, particularly for students who had less academic ground to make up."

The report, released by the Education Department's Institute of Education Sciences, examined test scores from more than 2,000 students who entered a lottery for admission to the voucher program. Scores from students accepted in the program were compared with scores from those who weren't. The study followed two groups of students in their first year in the program, 2004-05 and 2005-06.

The study also found that parents like vouchers. Those whose children are in the program were significantly more likely to rate their school with a grade of A or B than their public school counterparts.

Tiesha Lawrence said the voucher program has been a boon for her 7-year-old son, Nickquan.

Lawrence, 27, an administrator for the federal government who lives in Anacostia, said Nickquan had been targeted for special education at the public Orr Elementary School in Southeast because he had trouble finishing assignments.

Using voucher money, Lawrence enrolled him at Ambassador Baptist Church Christian Academy in Southeast. She kept him back in first grade because he knew some words but couldn't read, she said. Since then, there has been a sea change.

"He loves to read, and he does his work on his own," said Lawrence, who hopes to send her 3-year-old son to Ambassador. "It's just really been a great help. It's like [Nickquan] really cares about school, and they are going to make sure that each child gets what they need before they go on to the next grade."

The report also found no evidence that students in the program were safer than their counterparts, even though their parents thought they were.

Nikia Hammond, 30, who has four children in the program, said she thinks the private schools her children attend are safer than public schools.

"It means something to me, as a single parent, not being able to afford private school, to be a part of the scholarship program," said Hammond, an eyewear specialist. "Without the scholarship fund, I'd probably be back at square one, thinking about where I'm going to be putting them in a public school. I think if they were to take this away, I'd be out of luck."

The Bush administration wants to expand vouchers nationwide through revisions in the No Child Left Behind law. But Democrats said the new report will make it easier for them to kill such proposals.

"This report offers even more proof that private school vouchers won't improve student achievement and are nothing more than a tired political gimmick," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, said in a statement.

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, which supports vouchers, said she is confident that future reports on the program will show greater gains. But she said the study should be viewed as validation of the program.

"Does it help kids? Does it help families?" she said. "I think the answer from this report is clearly yes."

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

RENDER TO CAESAR: Some Baptists feel ‘caught in the middle’

Hmmm. A new awakening or re-awakening of the religious right? Quote: "“It’s evangelicals reclaiming their birthright and their historical legacy as reformers, in the 19th-century sense of the term,” he said, noting that evangelicals in 19th-century America and Britain often were at the forefront of progressive political movements. They led fights against slavery, for women’s rights and for child welfare, for instance." Read on.

-Angela


RENDER TO CAESAR: Some Baptists feel ‘caught in the middle’

By Robert Marus / Associated Baptist Press / 6/22/07

It may look dead, but it’s really just evolving—even though its members might not like that word. And it may be developing into something its founders wouldn’t recognize.

That’s what some experts say about the future of the Religious Right as a political movement. And even many very conservative Southern Baptists are part of the trend.

The recent death of Virginia Baptist pastor and political activist Jerry Falwell put an exclamation point on months’ worth of media attention to the ever-more-evident fissures within conservative Christian ranks over how to proceed in secular politics.

Although his influence had waned in recent years, Falwell widely was regarded as a godfather of the Religious Right. Historians of religion and politics regard his launch of the Moral Majority in 1979 as seminal in unifying conservative Christians as a voting bloc.

But now Falwell is dead, and his peers in the “Big Three” of the Religious Right—Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson and Focus on the Family head James Dobson—are advanced in years.

The movement they launched, meanwhile, seems to have passed the apex of its power. In 1994, Christian conservatives helped elect a Republican Congress dominated by their own kind; it stayed in power more than a decade. They twice helped provide the margin of victory for a president—George W. Bush—who not only spoke their theological language, but also provided at least lip service to their favorite legislative goals. And they, with the elevation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, finally were within reach of having a reliable socially conservative majority on that powerful body.

But Democrats won the 2006 congressional elections handily, and the current top contenders for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination don’t inspire in Religious Right leaders the same kind of trust that Bush did—to put it mildly.

At the same time, many younger evangelicals are rethinking which issues influence their voting. Some are beginning to assert that protecting the environment, supporting international human rights and avoiding war are “pro-life” issues just as much as efforts to stop abortion. And polls show homosexuality and government-sanctioned prayers don’t get young evangelicals nearly as exercised as those old “wedge issues” do their elders.

Is it time to break out the dirges and the black veils for a political movement?

“No,” says Barry Hankins, an expert on Christian conservatives who teaches at Baylor University, noting it’s not the first time some prematurely have declared the Religious Right dead.

“It came up in about 1989 or so when Jerry Falwell shut down the Moral Majority,” he recalled. Another flurry of eulogies for the Religious Right appeared in the press in the late 1990s, after the Moral Majority’s successor—the Christian Coalition—began to flounder.

Several years ago, Hankins proposed the notion the Christian Right wasn’t dying; it was maturing. Rather than existing as a single, highly visible organization, it was becoming a movement with diverse influences.

Such maturation could be happening to the Christian conservative movement again, Han-kins said—but it might end up looking fundamentally different as a result.

“I think you have this new kind of wider segment of evangelicals who are publicly oriented and politically conscious, but they’re not tied to the old Christian Right machinery,” he said.

Randall Ballmer, a Columbia University historian and expert in American evangelicalism, agreed. “The younger folks are worried about the environment, they’re worried about climate change, they’re worried about global warming,” he said.

Younger evangelicals also focus on international human rights, poverty and healthcare. Southern Baptist mega-celebrity Rick Warren, for instance, has adopted alleviating the AIDS crisis in Africa and other Third World concerns as a major emphasis of his California church’s ministry.

The divide between the Religious Right power structure and new leaders who want to adopt a broader set of causes as core emphases has been laid bare by well-publicized intramural battles in recent months.

One was a long-simmering dispute over the chief public-policy officer for the National Association of Evangelicals. In March, a group of conservative Christian luminaries—including Dobson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council—sent a letter to NAE board members asking them to rein in or fire Richard Cizik, the organization’s vice president for governmental affairs. Dobson and his colleagues were upset with Cizik for his outspokenness on confronting global warming.

He and other environmentalist Christians have argued that, if the scientific consensus is right that global warming is real and human-induced, millions of the world’s poor people’s lives and livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels and changing weather patterns. Therefore, Cizik has said, drastic action to reverse global warming’s effects is necessary.

Not so fast, said the letter writers, who echoed the view of many pro-business conservatives that whether global warming is human-caused still is an open question—as is the question of whether drastic efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions would end up having a more detrimental economic effect than climate change itself.

Just as importantly, they argued, Cizik was “using the global-warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE’s mandate and its own statement of purpose.”

They released the missive to news outlets in an effort to mount a public-relations campaign against Cizik, but NAE board members rebuffed the ouster attempt.

Ballmer hopes a broadening of the evangelical agenda reflects the movement coming back to its past.

“It’s evangelicals reclaiming their birthright and their historical legacy as reformers, in the 19th-century sense of the term,” he said, noting that evangelicals in 19th-century America and Britain often were at the forefront of progressive political movements. They led fights against slavery, for women’s rights and for child welfare, for instance.

“What I hope is happening is that evangelicals are beginning to wake up to that, to recognize that evangelical activism in the 19th century—particularly in the antebellum period—was oriented toward those on the margins of society,” he said.

Whether it’s a departure from the Religious Right or an evolution of it, the trend is evident even within the Southern Baptist Convention. Some blogging Southern Baptist pastors have included, among their complaints about the SBC leadership, critiques of its close relationship with the right wing of the Republican Party.

“While I’ve been a card-carrying member of the so-called ‘Religious Right’ since I first voted for Pat Buchanan in the 1996 Presidential primaries, I’m sick and tired of the Religious Right,” said Texas pastor Benjamin Cole, in a post on his blog (baptistblog.wordpress.com) written prior to Falwell’s death.

“I can no longer stand to see Southern Baptist leaders pander to Republican politicians, and I’m ready for a man to occupy the White House who won’t shun evangelical voters on the one hand, or flirt with them on the other.”

Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, said merely opposing legalized abortion doesn’t make someone 100 percent pro-life. For example, messengers to the SBC annual meeting watered down an already-mild resolution about global warming after some objected the resolution encouraged too much government involvement in the issue.

“Our predecessors in the Southern Baptist Convention, the most ardent supporters of the conservative resurgence, somehow see global warming and … ecological concerns among young evangelicals (as) somehow apart from any Christian concern,” he said. “But they think the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is very much an issue of religious liberty.”

Cole said pastors like him find a dissonance in such views. “I think there’s a lot of young, emerging, arising—whatever you want to call it—evangelicals who watch that and go, ‘There is no coherent political philosophy of the Religious Right. There is no unifying theme except for support for the Republican Party,’” he said.

Paul Littleton, an Oklahoma pastor who operates the “Caught in the Middle” blog (middlekid.typepad.com) said in a December post that he—a Republican—is nonetheless tired of evangelicalism’s close association with the GOP.

“I’m conflicted because I am a part of an American evangelical Christianity that is almost entirely and uncritically in bed with the Republican Party—who will support them as long as they support capitalism and oppose abortion and homosexual marriage. Do that, and we’ll vote for you, we’ll go to war with you, we’ll let you spend the country into oblivion, and we’ll be silent when you make sexual advances toward minor pages. And I don’t go for any of that stuff,” said Littleton, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Sapulpa, a suburb of Tulsa.

Baylor’s Hankins said the SBC’s leaders getting closely involved with the Republican Party was an understandable part of the “ebb and flow” of Southern Baptist life.

“I think part of what we’ve seen over the last quarter-century is that, as the Southern Baptist conservative movement gained ascendancy and gained control of the denomination, it was a heady experience to be aligned with political power. But, on the other hand, it was genuinely a way of having an influence in the culture,” he said.

“And as these things go, the avenue to Southern Baptists exercising influence in the culture can also work the other way around, with the Republican Party utilizing the power and influence of Southern Baptists for Republican ends. So, you had a nice symbiotic relationship there.”

Cole hopes his generation is beginning to “regard partisan politics as the ‘tar baby.’ You know, you can punch at it, but you’re going to get stuck in it,” he said.

“As a Southern Baptist, I don’t want to wake up any more in the morning and look on the pillow beside me and find an elephant.”



News of religion, faith, missions, Bible study and Christian ministry among Baptist churches, in Texas, the BGCT, the nation and around the world.

http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=6501

Schools call roll at a border crossing

Schools call roll at a border crossing
Students routinely walk from homes in Mexico to attend public institutions in the U.S. In Arizona, one district has chosen not to ignore the violation.
By Nicholas Riccardi / Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

June 25, 2007

San Luis, Ariz. — ROBERT Villarreal, standing at his post behind the customs officers at the border crossing station, knew he was being watched. A slim teenage boy wearing a green T-shirt was furtively peering at him from behind a pillar on the Mexican side.

"I know who it is before he even comes in," Villarreal said, ducking into an alcove.

Minutes later, perhaps thinking Villarreal had left, the boy and another teen breezed through customs. Villarreal sprang out of hiding and called the teens by name. "If you hide like that," he said, "you're just going to make things worse." Villarreal is not a border agent. He is a school attendance officer whose assignment is to catch students who live in Mexico but attend public school in the U.S.

Children who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants but live in Mexico cross every morning to get a better education for free in Arizona, breaking the law that requires them to live within the boundaries of the district. To many of their parents, who have ties in both countries, not living in the district is the educational equivalent of jaywalking.

"I pay taxes. I work over here," said a 31-year-old corrections officer who would not give his name as he walked his son from Mexico to elementary school in San Luis. "What's the difference?"

There are no hard statistics on the number of children who break the residency requirement, but some people opposed to U.S. immigration policy have seized on the issue as another example of how they say migrants exploit the U.S. They contend that most school districts do not enforce the law because they risk losing state funding, which is based on the number of enrolled students.

"The whole thing's outrageous. We're not the school district for northern Mexico," said state Rep. Russell K. Pearce.

Two years ago, the state superintendent, fed up with the practice, hired a private investigator to videotape schoolchildren coming from Mexico. At an Arizona border town with a population of 65, a school bus regularly picked up 85 students at the crossing.

Amid the resulting publicity, that school district stopped the pickups, but it's unclear whether any other districts changed their policies.

In nearby Calexico, Calif., taxpayers' complaints about building schools within walking distance of Mexico led the local district last year to hire someone to watch border crossings and check student addresses.

But in Arizona, no district appears to have taken as aggressive a stance as Yuma Union High School District, which serves San Luis. In the early 1990s, it hired a full-time attendance officer to verify residency for students at its six schools.

Part truant officer, part detective, Villarreal spends his mornings noting names of high school students arriving from Mexico and listening to explanations for why they crossed: They were visiting a sick relative. They were staying with a friend. Their parents divorced and one lives in Mexico, the other in the U.S.

He lets the children, including the teens he spotted hiding from him, continue to school, then checks their stories.

A soft-spoken man with a full face and the hint of a mustache, Villarreal, 37, is a San Luis native and the son of Mexican immigrant farmworkers. But he has little sympathy for parents who avoid paying the property taxes that support the district by living in Mexico, where the cost of living is lower and houses sell for about $30,000, compared with the median price of $179,000 in San Luis.

"They want the American services," he said, "but they don't want to be part of the American system."



SAN Luis, 20 miles south of Yuma, lies in Arizona's far southwestern corner, bordered by Mexico to the south and west. For decades it was a sleepy agricultural town where workers in the surrounding lettuce and broccoli fields entered from Mexico and occasionally settled down in mobile homes or modest stucco houses.

Cesar Chavez was born in this region and sometimes returned to San Luis to support strikes by local agricultural workers. He died in a crumbling apartment complex here with a dirt courtyard a stone's throw from the border.

In the 1990s, the population began to boom, as migrants from other parts of the U.S. were lured by cheap real estate and persistent sunshine. Illegal immigrants from Mexico began dashing across the border, bringing an influx of border patrol and National Guard posts to town. Now, with 15,000 people and growing, the town is spilling into the desert. New subdivisions abut farmland that exudes the bracing odor of fresh cabbage.

Villarreal keeps a rolled-up map of the town in the trunk of his district-

issued white Ford Escort. After scanning it one recent evening, he cut through a subdivision onto a modest residential street.

"OK," Villarreal said, "we're looking for Manuel and Blanca Carranza."

An hour earlier, Villarreal had spotted their 16-year-old son walking after school on Main Street, past the bargain clothing stores and toward the crossing. Where are you going? Villarreal asked. Home, the student answered.

Months earlier the family had been added to Villarreal's list after he spotted the son walking across the border. Villarreal had been unable to find the parents' home on prior visits to the U.S. address the school had on file.

The boy's offhand remark on his way to Mexico wasn't enough to take official action — Villarreal had to find his parents. He drove to a rundown, single-story, white clapboard house. Children's clothes dangled from a clothesline stretched along the rutted driveway, and cardboard covered a cracked front window. He knocked on the door three times before a male voice answered.

Villarreal asked for the Carranzas. They're not in, the voice said. When are they coming back? "Later." After 8 p.m.? "Later."

Shaking his head, Villarreal returned to his car. "This is the same person I've talked to before and the same answer," he said. (The district later sent a letter to expel the teenager; families have the right to appeal.)

San Luis is a small town, and Villarreal has run into uncomfortable situations. Once, an elected official — whom Villarreal wouldn't identify — covered for a parent from behind a closed door. Other times, employees at nearby school districts were involved in deceptions.

Villarreal tries to keep a low profile because, between early-morning patrols and evening door-knocks, he's a teacher's assistant at a middle school in another local district. Mindful of how some in town may view his work, he asks his family not to discuss his attendance officer job with anyone.

The Yuma Union High School District was forced to confront the residency issue after a bond measure to build a high school in San Luis was rejected in 1992. Voters believed the school would serve mostly students who lived in Mexico. The district decided it needed to prove to voters that its students were attending legally, and created the position of attendance officer.

Villarreal is the second person to hold the job. When he started eight years ago, he intercepted hundreds of high school students entering every day from Mexico. Parents were accustomed to sending their children to U.S. schools without a hassle. Now word is out that the six Yuma Union high schools check residency, and the numbers crossing have dropped significantly.

In contrast, about 100 younger children were seen one recent day coming from Mexico to attend elementary and middle schools. Villarreal does not check on these students. Some were going to Catholic schools that can educate students from any locale, but dozens were headed to the eight elementary and middle schools run by the Gadsden Elementary School District. That district does not patrol the border. Instead, it requests utility bills to prove residency and sends staffers to check if a student's parents don't return calls on routine school issues such as repeated absences, said spokeswoman Rosy Ballesteros.

Villarreal prides himself on knowing the names and histories of the high school students who cross; most attend the high school in San Luis.

"This kid is OK; his legal guardian lives here," Villarreal said as one boy trudged past him. "That girl's up for withdrawal," he said, nodding at one who passed a moment later.

He stopped another girl, who showed her U.S. passport and said she'd spent the night with an aunt in Mexico while her father, who lives in San Luis, worked late. Villarreal made a note and let her pass. He'd already seen the father at a house in San Luis but would check again. "You never know," he said.



VILLARREAL usually gathers several dozen cases after a few days of patrolling. He typically finds about 150 students each year who should be withdrawn, out of a district of 10,000. He and his boss, Assistant Supt. Gerrick Monroe, advise those students' parents to either move across the border or make a U.S. resident the legal guardian for the child. Most make the adjustment.

The district allows parents who live outside its boundaries to pay $5,300 annually for their children to stay in school, but only eight families do so.

Villarreal's investigation of the two teens who tried to dodge him at the

border forced one of them to pay tuition to continue in school; the other withdrew.

By enforcing the law, Monroe said, the district loses money — it receives $5,000 in state funds for every pupil enrolled. He said he understood why parents thought they could send their children to U.S. schools. "To people who live along the international border, it's similar to a county line," he said. "People don't think much about [crossing] it."

Certainly not Carla Molina, who walked her two children, 11 and 8,

to school in San Luis one recent morning.

"We're planning to move back here anyway," Molina said. She lived in San Luis years ago, and her children, born in Yuma, are U.S. citizens. She wants them to learn English. "It's important they learn it when they're young," Molina said.

Villarreal said it was also important to follow the law. The people who pay U.S. rents and taxes, he said, are the ones who deserve the benefits of the school system.

A couple of nights earlier, he had knocked on the door of the address one student crossing from Mexico had given him. The child's mother, Marta Andrade, answered, confirmed her residency and told Villarreal she was glad he had checked.

"I like that you do this," she told him.

Andrade, 47, described how she rose at 3 a.m. to take the two-hour trip to a remote field, where she worked all day to pay rent and ensure a legal education for her 16-year-old daughter. It would have been easier to stay in Mexico,
work less and cheat, but Andrade only has contempt for people who do that.

"Coming here is a sacrifice," she said. "They should have to do what I do."

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com
Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-schools25jun25,0,4508519.story?coll=la-home-center

Children to try out six languages before they start secondary school

This is really fantastic. Children have such un-tapped capacities to learn language. Wish this could be tested somewhere in the U.S. as well. -Angela

Children to try out six languages before they start secondary school
By Richard Garner, Education Editor/ The Independent
Published: 23 June 2007

Primary school children are learning six different languages from the
age of nine under a pioneering new plan.

The idea is to give them a taste of all six so they can then decide
for themselves which language to opt for when they transfer to
secondary school.

The scheme is being piloted in three local education authorities -
Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire - and is being backed
by secondary school headteachers. The children study French, German,
Spanish, Japanese, Punjabi and Latin for a term each before they leave
primary school. The project is being evaluated by the University of
Manchester with a view to promoting it nationally if it is successful.
The report will be published by the end of the year.

Peter Downes, a former president of the secondary school headteachers'
union and a languages teacher himself, who is managing the project
with cash backing from the Esme Fairbank Foundation, said: "It is
educationally better for the children. We're living in a modern world
- where children all learning French and going into France for a day
is no longer relevant. We will need a much wider language base in
future."

Ministers are insisting that every child should have the right to
learn a foreign language from the age of seven by the end of the
decade. Some primary schools have introduced the subject while others
have not - leaving secondary schools facing an enormous ability range
when the children arrive at 11.

"It is really difficult putting them all in the same class," said Mr
Downes. "If you start from scratch for the beginners those who have
been learning for years will get bored ... This way they will all have
been taught to the same level by the time they transfer." The ideal,
he said, is for clusters of primary schools feeding the same secondary
school to get together to teach the project.

One school which has seized on the initiative is the 320-pupil Cavalry
primary school in March, Cambridgeshire - in the largely white
Fenlands. "We didn't have any language teacher here at all," said
headteacher Val Spriggs.

"The children really have taken to this. Our children in this area
have very little experience of other cultures. It has been a lovely
way of introducing them to different ways of doing things."

Catherine White, the teacher in charge of delivering the project,
admits to having had a sketchy knowledge of languages - especially
Japanese - herself when she started the scheme.

"You don't have to be a linguist to teach it," she said. "After all, I
gave up on art when I was 14 or 15 - but I still have to teach it."

The proof of the pudding lies with the pupils. Alex Saunders, 11, who
has taken to signing his name "Alexus" after learning Latin, said: "I
like it."

http://education.independent.co.uk/news/article2697802.ece

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tyler case opened schools to illegal migrants

This case is of tremendous significance because it upholds children's rights as human beings (i.e., human rights) to an education, particularly since this is not guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. -Angela

Tyler case opened schools to illegal migrants
06:35 PM CDT on Thursday, June 14, 2007

By KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH / The Dallas Morning News
kunmuth@dallasnews.com
TYLER – All Jose Lopez wanted for his children was the education he did not receive in Mexico.

But when he and his wife, Lidia, tried to enroll them in elementary school here in 1977, they were turned away.

Also Online
People on both sides of Plyler v. Doe share their memories of the case

Two years earlier, Texas lawmakers had changed the education code to prohibit using state funds to educate illegal immigrants. Some districts banned the students outright; others charged tuition.

Risking deportation, the Lopez family joined three others to fight Texas law. This week marks 25 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in their favor.

The landmark Plyler vs. Doe decision guaranteed illegal immigrants a free public education and established their civil rights and equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment.

The case is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Brown vs. Board of Education, but it enjoys none of the same fame. It is absent from Texas history lessons. People in Tyler rarely speak of it.

Yet the Plyler case has been used as a defense against countless proposals aiming to deny rights to illegal immigrants.

It was among the reasons that a federal judge threw out California's Proposition 187, which voters approved in 1994 to prohibit public services, including education, for illegal immigrants.

It explains why bills introduced in the Texas Legislature to ban illegal immigrants from public schools never go anywhere.

Attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund even cited the case this year in contesting the controversial Farmers Branch ordinance to ban illegal immigrants from renting apartments in the city.

"It's a moral guide," former Tyler civil rights attorney Larry Daves said. "It says this country still stands for having an open door to children and creating opportunities. That we're going to be true to that longstanding notion in this country that education is the great equalizer."

The nation finds itself once again amid rising tensions over illegal immigration. Congress is searching for a solution.

Also Online
People on both sides of Plyler v. Doe share their memories of the case

This past legislative session, state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, sponsored a bill that would have denied education benefits to illegal immigrants. He says filing that bill was a "mistake" because he can't change the precedent set by Plyler.

"I think it's outrageous the federal government has imposed on us free education and free health care – the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our nation," he said.

No one knows the exact costs, though the state comptroller estimated in December that Texas has 1.4 million illegal immigrants.

Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman said nobody wants to see kids thrown out of school, but "we want to see a policy that convinces parents not to bring their kids here in the first place."

He said local ordinances such as the one in Farmers Branch show cities and taxpayers are feeling overburdened. Because they can't bar children from school, they try to make them leave town.

Whether they have that right is still being played out in the courts.

'They should be equal'
Mr. Lopez crossed the Mexican border illegally to work in a foundry in Tyler in 1969. Later, he brought his wife and four children (all are now citizens or permanent residents) and enrolled the oldest ones in school.

But in July 1977, district trustees voted to charge $1,000 tuition to illegal immigrant children. The Lopez family could not afford it.

"I am illiterate – I am a person that doesn't know anything," Mr. Lopez said in Spanish in an interview this month. But he believed what the district did was wrong.

"School is very important for all children, and they should not be discriminated against because they are Mexican or white or black," he said. "They should be equal."

On the first day of school in 1977, Tyler officials targeted children who could not speak English.

"It was a complete and total chaotic situation," recalled Michael McAndrew, a Catholic outreach worker who helped local Hispanics. "If you looked poor, you were put out of school."

Mr. McAndrew turned to Mr. Daves, who contacted MALDEF for help. They found four families willing to sue Superintendent Jim Plyler and the school board in federal court over the tuition policy. The families were known collectively in the case as "Doe" to protect their identities.

At 8 years old, Alfredo Lopez knew only that "they wouldn't let us go to school."

He remembers heading to the courthouse in the dark for the 6 a.m. hearing.

"It was early in the morning to keep the media away," said Mr. Lopez, who speaks with an East Texas twang. "My parents knew we could be deported. We had everything we owned waiting in the car."

The situation was grim, Mr. Daves said. A smattering of challenges to the law had already failed in state court.

But the attorneys were relying on the reputation of U.S. District Court Judge William Wayne Justice, known for ruling in favor of the poor and minorities.

Judge Justice issued a preliminary injunction and ordered the children back to school in Tyler just days after they were barred. He issued a permanent injunction against the district in 1978.

Sitting in his chambers in Austin recently, the 87-year-old judge said the case's facts were unprecedented.

"I think it's the most important case I ever decided," he said.

His ruling prompted more than a dozen similar challenges across the state. In Dallas, lawyers sued over the school district's policy of not admitting illegal immigrant children. In Houston lawyers challenged the district's tuition policy.

In some places, illegal immigrant children stayed out of school for years as the cases played out in court.

Ana Coca, 39, a bilingual education program administrator at the University of North Texas, spent two years out of school in Houston before her mother enrolled her in a private Catholic school. Her older siblings never finished high school.

"I can tell you why they dropped out," she said. "They were never able to close the gap. It was too late for them."

The situation was so dire that in 1980 a group of Dallas faith and business leaders set up a network of schools to educate the illegal immigrant children in churches.

In Fort Worth, children attended clandestine night schools led by schoolteachers who volunteered their time.

Private Catholic schools also took in illegal immigrants.

Marti Brooks volunteered to teach some of the classes in Dallas. She recalls the backlash from co-workers at her second job as a hotel hostess. They asked why she was helping illegal immigrants.

"Why wouldn't I? Why was it OK to hire them for pennies but not educate their children?" she asked. "I loved the kids. They were so eager to learn."

'A subclass of illiterates'
Many of the state's arguments against enrolling illegal immigrants were economic – that the children caused crowding in schools, that they were costly to educate through bilingual education and that they hurt the learning of American children.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, himself the son of Irish immigrants, rejected those arguments when he wrote the majority opinion on June 15, 1982: "It is difficult to understand precisely what the State hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare and crime."

Today, Mr. Plyler is happy the school district didn't win. That's a different view from the one he expressed after the high court's ruling, when he called illegal immigrant children a "burden."

"It would have been one of the worst things to happen in education – they'd cost more not being educated," the retired superintendent said. "Right after we let those youngsters in, I was pleased. Then more and more came, and now we have schools with a lot of Hispanics all over the district."

Tyler ISD attorney John Hardy – who argued the case before the Supreme Court – said the biggest change has been a lot of money spent on bilingual education and special programs for children.

While the Plyler decision guarantees their education and the state grants them in-state tuition and financial aid in college, nothing addresses what happens once they graduate. Their status locks them into low-wage work cleaning houses or doing construction.

"It's very frustrating," Dallas superintendent Michael Hinojosa said. "We inspired them to go to college, and the irony is that now they cannot go to work legally."

The Lopez family offers hope.

The parents and their four children benefited from the 1986 amnesty offered to illegal immigrants who could prove, among other things, that they had lived in the country since before Jan. 1, 1982. Nine of the 10 Lopez children graduated from high school.

Jose Lopez wants to see his grandchildren go "mas arriba" – much higher – than his children, whose high school graduation photos are displayed prominently in his living room.

His grandchildren speak of college and becoming pediatricians and music producers. They are involved in National Honor Society, soccer and drama.

"Hopefully the younger generation can benefit twice as much as we did," Alfredo Lopez said.

KEY DATES
Sept. 1, 1975 –The Texas Legislature changes the Texas education code to entitle only citizens and legally admitted immigrants to a free education. It prohibits school districts from using state funds to educate illegal immigrant children.

Feb. 7, 1977 –State District Court Judge James R. Meyers in Austin rules that children of illegal immigrants cannot attend Texas schools unless they pay tuition. The Texas Supreme Court later upholds the decision.

July 21, 1977 –Tyler ISD trustees vote to charge illegal immigrant children $1,000 a year in tuition.

Sept. 6, 1977 –A lawsuit challenging the tuition policy is filed on behalf of four families with 16 illegal immigrant children by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund against Tyler superintendent Jim Plyler and school trustees. The families are listed collectively in the lawsuit as Doe to protect their identities.

Sept. 11, 1977 –U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice issues a preliminary injunction in the Tyler case and orders the children to be readmitted to schools free of charge. A year later, he issues a permanent injunction, saying that the school district cannot deny a free education to children based on their status as illegal Mexican immigrants.

Oct. 16, 1978 –In a separate lawsuit involving Port Arthur ISD, U.S. District Judge Joe Fischer rules illegal immigrant children must be readmitted to school. But none of the 56 children show up – because the judge also ordered the district to send their parents' names to immigration officials.

April 9, 1979 –The parents of 19 illegal immigrant children sue the Dallas school district over a policy that requires proof of legal status to enroll.

Jan. 22, 1980 –In Dallas, an interfaith effort known as Proyecto Educacion, or Project Education, opens three temporary schools at churches for more than 100 illegal immigrant children.

July 21, 1980 –U.S. District Judge Woodrow Seals rules the Texas law unconstitutional and orders the illegal immigrants readmitted. His ruling involves a consolidation of cases challenging the state statute in 17 school districts.

Aug. 12, 1980 –Judge Seal's order is stayed by a three-judge federal appeals panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and illegal immigrant children once again are barred from enrolling tuition-free.

Sept. 4, 1980 –U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell orders Texas schools to admit illegal immigrant children immediately, unless districts can demonstrate their resources are too limited to accommodate them without hampering the education of all students.

Sept. 11, 1980 –U.S. Judge Robert Hill orders the Dallas school district to drop its policy against admitting illegal immigrant children.

Oct. 1, 1980 –The Texas Education Agency says 10,387 illegal immigrant children have enrolled in Texas schools – far fewer than the 120,000 the state had projected. Dallas has 1,043, and Houston 3,000.

Oct. 20, 1980 –The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules school districts cannot deny children an education and the Texas law is unconstitutional.

May 11, 1981 –The Texas House tentatively approves a repeal of the 1975 law, but the issue dies after a Senate committee fails to report the measure to the floor.

Dec. 1, 1981 –Plyler vs. Doe is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 15, 1982 –In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court finds the 1975 Texas law authorizing school districts to deny a free education to illegal immigrant children and to withhold funding for their education violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

May 16, 1984 –President Ronald Reagan releases $30 million in aid to help educate illegal immigrants in border school districts in Texas.

Source: Dallas Morning News research

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/061107dnmetplyler.3a34e2f.html#

Studies find salary gap at Austin schools

Studies find salary gap at Austin schools
Austin among Texas school district with largest differential among teachers of high and low minority and income schools.

By Laura Heinauer
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Austin school district pays teachers at schools with high degrees of poverty and large percentages of minority students less than what teachers earn at the district's wealthier, more diverse schools. And according to a pair of recent reports, the wage gap is wider in Austin than in most other large Texas school districts.

The reports are based on a salary study of the state's 10 largest school districts by University of Texas education researcher Ed Fuller and were paid for by Washington-based think-tank Education Trust. Across the nation, issues related to teacher quality have gotten increased attention as schools struggle to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The national report released Wednesday singled out Austin as having some of the largest gaps in pay between schools in a single district.

Fuller said the wage gap in Austin exists because less experienced teachers tend to be concentrated at schools with higher numbers of minority and low-income students. Austin district officials criticized the reports, saying they don't acknowledge that Austin is doing more than many districts in Texas to recruit and retain teachers, particularly at low-performing schools.

Mandating assignments would spur teacher flight to nearby districts that offer higher salaries and lower-cost housing, Austin officials have said.

Austin is unusual among the state's large urban districts. With relatively more schools at both ends of the spectrum — both high- and low-income — the reported wage gap is more dramatic, Fuller said.

The average annual teacher salary at Casis Elementary School, which serves a predominately white population, was $2,402 more than that of the average teacher at Winn Elementary, where 97 percent of students are black or Hispanic, the report said. A $3,819 gap was found between Summitt Elementary, where less than 35 percent of students are considered low-income, and Wooten Elementary, where 97 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

Although salary isn't necessarily an indicator of overall teacher quality, it is an indicator of teacher experience, Education Trust President Kati Haycock said. And she said research shows that "no matter how good new teachers will eventually become, they are not as good in their first year of practice."

"When you look at the data this way, it helps people see how the current patterns of teacher assignment and transfer actually result in a draining off of resources," Haycock said. She said that her organization is recommending changes to the No Child Left Behind Act, which is up for reauthorization this year, that would ensure local funding is more evenly distributed among schools.

"What you're seeing in these numbers is that (federal dollars are) coming on top of a very uneven base," she said.

Fuller said that although supplemental programs such as tutoring can be beneficial, studies have shown that money spent on teachers is the most effective way to improve student performance.

"If you look at the East Austin schools, you'll see they just constantly churn teachers year after year," Fuller said. "Hopefully with the strategic compensation plan that's being piloted, we'll actually see that those pay and experience gaps reverse."

Starting this fall, Austin will provide stipends and professional support to teachers who agree to work at the district's highest-need schools.

District officials also criticized the report for focusing on salaries without mentioning that per-pupil spending is actually higher at lower-income and minority schools.

For instance, $7,340 in local money was spent per student at Johnston High School, compared with $4,932 at Bowie High School in 2004-05, the most recent year for which such data are available.

District officials also acknowledged, however, that the per-pupil information has its drawbacks. Smaller schools, for instance, appear to spend more per pupil because they are less efficient to run. "Any of the numbers, you can look at them a different way," said Julie Lyons, the district's director of state and federal accountability.

lheinauer@statesman.com; 445-3694

Race-based analysis

Negative figures mean the average teacher salary at schools with more minority students was lower than that at schools with fewer minority students. Positive figures mean the salary was higher.

Income-based analysis

Negative figures indicate the average teacher salary at high-poverty schools was that much less than those at low-poverty schools.

Salary gap comparison

Researchers compared average teacher salaries in two categories. They looked at the number of students from low-income households and at the number of minority students at schools in Texas' 10 largest districts. Researchers said Austin is unusual among the state's urban districts. With relatively more schools at both ends of the income spectrum, the wage gap is more dramatic. In Dallas, for example, 83 percent of students come from low-income households, compared with 60 percent in the Austin school district.

Find this article at:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/06/21/21gap.html

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Travis County Immigrant Assessment

This report is worth checking out. -Angela

2006-07 Travis County Immigrant Assessment
Executive Summary

Between 1990 and 2005, Travis County experienced a 230% increase in its foreign-born
population (from approximately 45,000 to 148,000 people). In 2005, foreign-born residents
made up 17% of the county’s population. Change of this magnitude underscores the need for a
better understanding of the community conditions that affect the diverse immigrant
populations in Travis County.

In late 2005, community partners, observing the significance of these trends, made a commitment to examine, identify, and report the current conditions and needs of immigrants in Travis County. The Research & Planning Division of Travis County Health and Human Services & Veterans Service stewarded this project, with support from an assessment Steering Committee and community volunteers.

The main product of this effort is the 2006-2007 Travis County Immigrant Assessment — a report intended to provide a balanced, accurate, and useful picture of foreign-born residents in Travis County. Recognizing that foreign-born residents are integral to our community, the Assessment also identifies overarching community goals expressed by local authorities and examines the experience of foreign-born residents within the context of these goals. To provide context for this discussion, the Assessment highlights notable differences and similarities between foreign-born and native-born residents as well as those between foreign-born populations with differing legal statuses and other characteristics.

This assessment drew from both primary and secondary research. The primary research
included: (1) a forum of local service providers, and (2) 18 focus groups with immigrant
residents of Travis County. The secondary research was based primarily upon an analysis of
existing research, public policy, and data derived from existing data sources, including the
American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, Texas Education Agency, Texas
Health Department of Vital Records, and the Decennial Census.

This document serves as a supplement to the 2006-2007 Travis County Immigrant Assessment and
is intended to summarize some of the highlights from each section of the report. Please refer to
the full report for a more detailed discussion of these issues, their associated citations, and
related analytical methodologies. The full report also offers contact information for the authors
and a list of contributors to this project.

An electronic copy of the 2006-2007 Travis County Immigrant Assessment is available to view and
download at: full report (pdf)

Texas Residents United for a Stronger Texas (TRUST) report

Here is the Texas Residents United for a Stronger Texas (TRUST) report generated by Luis Figueroa at MALDEF regarding anti-immigration bills—the majority of which were defeated. -Angela

THE TRUST REPORT
Texas Residents United for a Stronger Texas

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Session In Review

Bill Breakdown


Due to the sheer volume of bills relating to anti-immigration, it is difficult to construct a complete summary of what happened to all anti-immigrant legislation from the session. Despite possible omissions, this breakdown of filed anti-immigrant bills confirms the overall success of the TRUST coalition efforts in preventing such legislation from being passed. Chairman Swinford held to true to his promise of not letting his committee turn into a circus by not allowing unconstitutional anti-immigrant bills an opportunity to be heard.

· Number of anti-immigrant bills (or bills including anti-immigrant provisions) and resolutions filed in both houses: 60 +

· Bills never set for a hearing: 30

· Bills set for a hearing before a house committee, but not heard: 5

· Bills heard by committee and left pending: 13

· Bills voted out of House State Affairs and died in calendars or on the house calendar: 8

· Bills that died on the house floor: 3 (HB 855, HB 1274, HB 159)

· Bills that were amended to remove all immigration-related provisions while they moved through the process: 2 (HB 13 and SB 47)

· Bill voted out of house but not heard by senate committee: 1 (HB 1997)

· Bill voted out of senate but not heard by house committee: 1 (SB 1464)

· Bills sent to the governor, amended to limit negative impact on immigrants: 1 (HB 1196)

Immigration Legislative Round-up

· Of the over 60 filed bills and resolutions that included anti-immigrant provisions, three-quarters died in committee and almost half were never set for a hearing. Five were set for hearings but not heard by committee and 13 others were heard by committee and left pending. The successful prevention of anti-immigrant legislation from being passed testifies to the efforts of the TRUST coalition.

Bills Voted out of Committee

Three bills with an anti-immigrant impact died on the house floor.

· HB 855 would have expanded the offense of failure to identify so that individuals who were not yet under arrest could be charged for refusing to provide identifying information to a peace officer.

· HB 1274 would make it a requirement for commercial drivers in Texas to speak English. Chairman of Transportation Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), when asked why he would allow such a bill out of his committee responded that, "You don't have to agree with every bill that you let out."

· HB 159 would remove the provision in current law that permits long-time Texas residents to attend Texas public universities and community colleges at the in-state tuition rate regardless of immigration status.

Bills that Passed Out of the House

· HB 13, which relates to homeland security issues, including border security issues and law enforcement and SB 47, were amended during the legislative process to remove all immigration-related provisions.

· In the end, only one immigration-related bill, HB 1196, which requires businesses who commit the federal offense of engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring individuals who are ineligible to work to repay any public subsidy they have received, was sent to the governor.

Positive Bills

· In terms of affirmative legislation, HB 1121, a bill that assists immigrant victims of human trafficking and other severe crimes, has been sent to the governor.

In the News and Highlights from the Session:

Editorial: Bills on immigration just fruitless gestures

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/stories/MYSA051607.01O.legislatures1ed_.262c828.html

State lawmaker: Leave most immigration issues to the feds. Most bills might not pass constitutional muster

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/03/27immigration.html

The Death and Rebirth of HB 13

http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/009346.html

MALC Awards Rep. Farias, Rep Swinford, and Rep. Davis

http://capitolannex.com/2007/05/28/farias-named-malac-freshman-of-the-year/

Now it's Time For Congress to Act

http://www.riograndeguardian.com/rggnews_story.asp?story_no=26

Thank you all for your heroic efforts in making this session a tremendous success in terms of protecting the rights of all Texans. I would also like to present a special thank you to Rebecca Bernhardt and the ACLU of Texas for their tireless energy and work on behalf of the TRUST Coalition.

Luis Figueroa

MALDEF
Legislative Staff Attorney
110 Broadway
Suite 300
San Antonio, TX 78205
LFigueroa@maldef.org
210-224-5476

Long Reviled, Merit Pay Gains Among Teachers

June 18, 2007
Long Reviled, Merit Pay Gains Among Teachers

By SAM DILLON

MINNEAPOLIS — For years, the unionized teaching profession opposed few ideas more vehemently than merit pay, but those objections appear to be eroding as school districts in dozens of states experiment with plans that compensate teachers partly based on classroom performance.

Here in Minneapolis, for instance, the teachers’ union is cooperating with Minnesota’s Republican governor on a plan in which teachers in some schools work with mentors to improve their instruction and get bonuses for raising student achievement. John Roper-Batker, a science teacher here, said his first reaction was dismay when he heard his school was considering participating in the plan in 2004.

“I wanted to get involved just to make sure it wouldn’t happen,” he said.

But after learning more, Mr. Roper-Batker said, “I became a salesman for it.” He and his colleagues have voted in favor of the plan twice by large margins.

Minnesota’s $86 million teacher professionalization and merit pay initiative has spread to dozens of the state’s school districts, and it got a lift this month when teachers voted overwhelmingly to expand it in Minneapolis. A major reason it is prospering, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in an interview, is that union leaders helped develop and sell it to teachers.

“As a Republican governor, I could say, ‘Thou shalt do this,’ and the unions would say, ‘Thou shalt go jump in the lake,’ ” Mr. Pawlenty said. “But here they partnered with us.”

Scores of similar but mostly smaller teacher-pay experiments are under way nationwide, and union locals are cooperating with some of them, said Allan Odden, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies teacher compensation. A consensus is building across the political spectrum that rewarding teachers with bonuses or raises for improving student achievement, working in lower income schools or teaching subjects that are hard to staff can energize veteran teachers and attract bright rookies to the profession.

“It’s looking like there’s a critical mass,” Professor Odden said. The movement to experiment with teacher pay, he added, “is still not ubiquitous, but it’s developing momentum.”

Some plans still run into strong opposition from teachers and their unions, as in Texas and Florida this year, where skeptical teachers rejected proposals from school districts. An incentive-pay proposal by Chancellor Joel I. Klein of the New York City public schools has stalled, with city officials and the teachers’ union blaming each other.

Minnesota’s experience shows, however, that an incentive plan created with union input can draw teacher support.

Merit pay, or compensating teachers for classroom performance rather than their years on the job and coursework completed, found some support in the 1980s among policy makers and school administrators, who saw it as a way to encourage good teachers to work harder and to weed out the bad ones. But teachers saw it as a gimmick used by principals to reward cronies based on favoritism.

How thoroughly unions will embrace merit pay remains unclear, said Chester E. Finn Jr., an education scholar who served in the Reagan administration. In some cities where unions have agreed to participate in merit pay programs, they have consented only after reshaping the programs so thoroughly that student achievement is one of many factors by which teachers are judged, reducing the programs’ effectiveness, Mr. Finn said.

The rewards teachers receive for outstanding performance range from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more in a few districts.

The Department of Education is encouraging schools and districts to try merit pay. [Last week it awarded 18 new federal grants, building on 16 others distributed last November. That makes a total of $80 million that the Bush administration has given to schools and districts in 19 states that have incentive pay plans.] Private groups are also involved; the Milken Family Foundation of Santa Monica, Calif., for instance, which helped create the Minnesota program, has channeled money and expertise into similar plans that include incentive pay at 130 schools in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

The positions of the two national teachers’ unions diverge on merit pay. The National Education Association, the larger of the two, has adopted a resolution that labels merit pay, or any other pay system based on an evaluation of teachers’ performance, as “inappropriate.”

The American Federation of Teachers says it opposes plans that allow administrators alone to decide which teachers get extra money or that pay individual teachers based solely on how students perform on standardized test scores, which they consider unreliable. But it encourages efforts to raise teaching quality and has endorsed arrangements that reward teams of teachers whose students show outstanding achievement growth.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers in New York, said the union was willing to talk further with the city about “schoolwide bonuses for sustained growth in student achievement.”

Some recent experiments have run into the same opposition that doomed merit pay in the 1980s. In Houston, an incentive plan drafted at school district headquarters over union opposition stirred up a firestorm when the first checks were written earlier this year and The Houston Chronicle put teachers’ bonuses on its Web site, making public which teachers the district had rewarded and embarrassing those it had not.

In Florida, the Legislature last year rushed to approve a merit pay plan before Gov. Jeb Bush left office in January. But many teachers rejected it this spring because it limited bonuses to the top 25 percent of teachers in any school, identified primarily by students’ test scores; they said that was an artificial cap. This year Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature scrapped the plan in favor of one that allows teams of teachers, not just individuals, to get bonuses.

In Minnesota, some experiments with new teacher pay systems got under way during the last decade at the initiative of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, whose leaders feared that their Democratic state legislators, on whom the union had long relied to obtain financing for teacher raises, were losing power to suburban Republicans.

“We realized we were going to have to embrace some things that would get money into teachers’ pockets in nontraditional ways,” said Louise Sundin, the federation’s president from 1984 until last year.

In 2004, the union worked with Mr. Pawlenty to bring a Milken Foundation initiative to three Minneapolis schools, including Seward Montessori, where Mr. Roper-Batker is one of about 50 teachers. He received a bonus of $2,131 after the first year, partly because he taught English in an intensive team effort that raised student scores. Student achievement has risen even more sharply at other schools participating in the program, officials said.

Mr. Roper-Batker said the bonus was welcome but not remotely as powerful a motivation as his own ambitions for his students. Several of his colleagues expressed similar views.

In 2005, Mr. Pawlenty modeled his own statewide teacher incentive plan, Q Comp, on the Minneapolis program. Of Minnesota’s 340 districts, about 40 have adopted Q Comp, and about 140 have submitted letters declaring their intent to join, he said. Allowing teachers to vote to participate is crucial, he said.

“This is a complex process of changing a culture, and it will fail if teachers don’t support it,” Mr. Pawlenty said.


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Civil Rights Groups Press for NCLB to Focus on High Schools

June 19, 2007
Civil Rights Groups Press for NCLB to Focus on High Schools
By Lesli A. Maxwell /EdWeek.org

Washington
Nine major civil rights organizations today called on Congress to make reforming America’s high schools and improving graduation rates for minority students the most urgent priority as it moves forward on renewing the No Child Left Behind Act.
Driven by escalating concerns that African-American, Latino, American Indian, and some Asian-American students make up the majority of the nation’s dropouts every year, the coalition unveiled its “Campaign for High School Equity,” a document that spells out clear policies it believes Congress should pursue to reverse that trend. The group partnered with the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based advocacy group that pushes for high school improvements, to devise the recommendations.
More than 1.2 million students did not graduate with their high school class in the 2006-07 school year, and the majority of them were students of color, according to the group.
“We are united on this issue,” said John Trasviña, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the nine groups. “We all know that students of color are four times more likely to attend high schools that have become dropout factories.”
It has been rare for such a diverse group of civil rights organizations to form an alliance around a single issue, Mr. Trasviña said.
The coalition outlined dozens of specific policy priorities, including providing rigor in core subjects, especially in high-poverty communities, and requiring states to report publicly on students’ access to college-preparatory courses and course-taking patterns at the high school level by income, race, and ethnicity.
“We can’t continue to provide the least education to the most rapidly growing part of our population,” said Wade Henderson, the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Seeking Accountability
The coalition also called for holding individual high schools accountable for the performance of students, suggesting that new requirements be added to the NCLB law that would make improving high school graduation rates for groups of students a condition for meeting accountability measures. Federal funding for secondary schools needs to be increased, the group said, and proposed that Congress establish a new fund that would help pay for improvement strategies in low-performing middle and high schools. And the long tradition of relying on local property taxes to finance schools must also be addressed, the coalition said.
“We have some real resource-equity issues,” said Michael Wotorson, the director of national education for the NAACP. “Imagine going to a school where the toilets don’t work … or the difference between a school in southeast Washington and one in Bethesda, Md.,” he said referring to an inner-city area and an affluent suburban one. “Kids get it. When they see a system that devalues them, they lose interest.”
The members of the coalition pledged today to send their recommendations to every member of Congress, and promised to organize their own constituencies to lobby for the changes as the debate over reauthorizing the law proceeds. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat who represents Baltimore, thanked the group for offering specific policies for adoption, but challenged it not to let the recommendations “collect dust.”
Bob Wise, a former governor of West Virginia and the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, said he is certain that Congress will not be able to ignore the coalition and the pressing need to address the nation’s high school dropout problem among minority students.
“I think people are finally focused on this issue,” he said. “I think people finally understand what’s at stake here if we don’t do something to address this.”
The organizations that make up the coalition include the League of United Latin American Citizens, in Los Angeles; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund in Washington; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Baltimore; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Los Angeles; the National Council of La Raza in Washington; the National Indian Education Association in Washington; the National Urban League in New York City; and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center in Washington.
Vol. 26

A Fish Rots from the Head: With these three in charge, the session was a stinker

Very interesting analysis of the 2007 legislative session. -Angela

A Fish Rots from the Head: With these three in charge, the session was a stinker
by Jake Bernstein / June 15, 2007

When all was said and little done, the gavels dropped, and adjournment let lawmakers escape from the political implosion that was the 80th Legislature. Like high schoolers who had just blown up the science lab, Texas’ three leaders stood dazed and giddy at having survived.
Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Tom Craddick entered the session with grand ambitions. Looking to fortify his legacy as the state’s longest-serving governor, Perry seemed to have his eye on the history books or national office. Dewhurst was eyeing Perry’s job and wanted a legislative portfolio to undergird an expected gubernatorial bid in 2010. Craddick’s sights, as always, were fixed on the exhilarating exercise of raw power and the rewards it brings to friends and supporters.

What’s remarkable is how quickly it all fell apart. As leadership dissipated, chaos rushed in to fill the vacuum.

PERRY’S SELF-INFLICTED PREDICAMENT
The governor seems to have awakened to this year’s session in a fit of hubris. Few saw it coming. After all, if ever a situation called for humility, it was Perry’s. He had barely squeaked to re-election, winning as the least unpopular choice in a crowded field. Before the session, he had infuriated parts of the electorate by trying to speed up state approval of 11 coal-fired power plants, and to ram through his sweeping plans for superhighways and toll roads. Legislators were wary of Perry’s agenda from the day they arrived.

Nonetheless, in January, he issued an executive order requiring that Texas girls be vaccinated against a cause of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus, before entering sixth grade. The unprecedented mandate made headlines across the country. More significantly, it startled Republican legislators who might have been Perry’s allies had he bothered to give them advance notice. Then Perry proposed selling the state’s lottery to a private company, using the cash to make Texas the nation’s unrivaled leader in cancer research.

Backlash against the HPV vaccine mandate was swift. Conservatives in and out of the Legislature argued vaccination would encourage promiscuity. They complained that government was usurping an important decision rightly belonging to parents. More cynical critics saw evidence of pay-for-play: Merck & Co., the only maker of HPV vaccine, stood to make millions from Perry’s mandate. One of the company’s lobbyists was Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff.

To many, Perry’s failure to seek legislative input was more offensive than the HPV order. Questions about a governor’s authority to issue such a mandate led to an informal ruling by Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said Perry’s order had no legal weight. (Abbott’s reasoning also threatened to undercut a previous Perry order fast-tracking state permits for the 11 new coal plants.)

Angleton Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen quickly introduced House Bill 1098, which not only overturned Perry’s HPV executive order, but also prohibited state agencies from requiring the vaccine for school enrollment. When the bill was heard in committee, opponents attacked the science behind the vaccine, arguing its safety was suspect and testing incomplete. Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat who agreed with Perry on the vaccine’s merit, called it a “campaign of misinformation.”

Perry turned to public relations, bringing in a woman with terminal cervical cancer for press briefings and photo opportunities. But Bonnen’s bill passed early enough in the session that lawmakers had time to overturn a potential Perry veto. The governor harshly criticized legislators and announced that he would let the bill become law without his signature. Debate on the merits of Perry’s idea, Farrar observed, got lost amid his ill-conceived tactics. “It was the first time I’ve seen him abuse his power to do good for somebody,” she said.

Perry’s notion of selling the lottery sank almost as quickly as it surfaced. But lawmakers did agree to let voters decide in November if they want to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Another Perry priority—capping increases in property tax appraisals—met a similar fate, which rankled many longtime GOP members, including Tom Pauken, the former state party chair who headed a task force Perry appointed to gin up the plan. “The Republicans have squandered a majority,” Pauken told the Houston Chronicle. “We could have gotten a lot more done if we’d had strong Republican leadership. We’ve got to quit simply saluting because they are Republicans.”

By midsession, Perry had begun to turn his situation around. Capitol wags agree that most of the credit goes to a Democrat—Perry’s legislative director, former Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister. Despite overwhelming support for a toll road moratorium, the governor emerged with a compromise that did little damage to his vision of privatized roadways. While an ambitious homeland security agenda foundered, Perry managed to expand his authority in this area as well. After he threatened to veto the entire higher education budget, legislators coughed up $100 million in incentive funds for colleges and $145 million more for financial aid.

“The last 140 days reminded me of watching an old Clint Eastwood movie. It was a session that featured the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Perry told reporters at session’s end without a hint of irony. “If Texans have a bad taste in their mouth from the session, I would say that I couldn’t blame them. Not because progress wasn’t made, but because there was way too much acrimony.”

At press time, Perry had 12 days to use his veto pen. There is still time for a little more acrimony.

DITHERING DEWHURST
Remarkably, among the cognoscente Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is known for his ability to master policy. His political ineptitude often obscures this talent. This session will be remembered as the one in which Dewhurst’s political instincts trumped all else—with disastrous results.

Dewhurst ran the Senate like a man about to hit the campaign trail. Senators groused that the agenda, which catered almost exclusively to Republican primary voters, was driven by polls rather than policy. How else to explain Dewhurst’s focus on child predators and voter fraud? The lieutenant governor forced votes on issues the senators would have happily avoided. What made it worse, some said, was that it’s probably all for naught. Many assume U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will join the race for governor in 2010 and obliterate Dewhurst in the primary.

Dewhurst pushed something he calls his “Texas Children First” program. If you think that means investing in worthwhile initiatives like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, you’re mistaken. Dewhurst spent most of the session resisting a proposal that would allow kids to stay on CHIP for a year instead of having to renew every six months. He focused on steroid testing for high school athletes, better access to defibrillators in schools, criminal background checks for school workers, and the death penalty for violent child predators. Those all passed, though it wasn’t always pretty. The sentence enhancement for child predators, known as Jessica’s law, was rushed through the House with “emergency” status from the governor. Then it sat for months while Dewhurst petulantly refused to address concerns of senators and even prosecutors. He eventually agreed to changes, and the bill was approved unanimously.

Requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls wasn’t one of Dewhurst’s initial goals, but the GOP is vertically integrated, and Karl Rove, at the top of the pyramid, has made voter fraud a priority. Democrats had just enough votes to block the bill in the Senate, but one of them happened to be deathly ill. Dewhurst’s threat to bring the bill up kept Houston Democratic Sen. Mario Gallegos on the Senate floor against his doctor’s orders.

The lieutenant governor saw his chance when San Antonio Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti missed a morning roll call because he was home sick with the flu. Then Dewhurst bungled the opportunity. He called the vote without all Republicans present. Short one, he tried to invalidate the vote of Houston Democratic Sen. John Whitmire, the Senate’s longest-serving member, on a technicality. Finally, he caved and allowed a second vote, but let senators stall long enough for Uresti to rush to the chamber and restore the stalemate.

The next day, Dewhurst’s office released an angry letter calling Senate Democrats un-American and saying Whitmire “tried to make himself a victim.” Dewhurst then insisted he hadn’t authorized the letter and that a staffer had written it. The Senate took a day off so they could caucus privately. Members sent three delegates to Dewhurst’s office for an airing of grievances.

For the next week or so, the lieutenant governor avoided the dais in the Senate chamber. In a meeting with reporters after the session, Dewhurst claimed victory for everything positive that came out of it. But with a pained look on his face, he carefully explained that he’d just “rather not get into” the voter ID debacle. Freshman Republican Sen. Dan Patrick, the conservative Houston radio host who also might challenge Dewhurst for the governorship in 2010, was less reserved. “If you’re going to run a play, you’d better make sure you run it right,” he told the Observer. “We’re the ones in charge. We have no excuses.”


CONTROLLING CRADDICK’S CRASHES
Even in the best of times, Speaker Craddick looks uncomfortable: reserved, shoulders rounded, at most a thin, impermanent smile traced across his face. But in the last hours of this legislative session, Craddick was downright joyful, sporting a broad, lopsided grin as he backslapped and joked the final minutes away. A near-death experience will do that.

At the beginning of the session in January, Craddick may well have thought the unpleasantness was over after he survived the first floor challenge to a sitting speaker in 40 years. Few in Texas are as adept as he at the insider game of politics. Craddick skillfully divided the opposition, in all likelihood seeding it with at least one double agent, while winning the allegiance of an unlikely group of mostly minority Democrats. With a slim majority in place, a somewhat contrite Craddick then promised members he had heard their complaints and would do better in this, his third session.

“It’s hard for a leopard to change his spots,” said Houston Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson at the time.

Remarkably for an institution that produces so much bad policy, the main complaints against Craddick were about process. Under past speakers, controversial legislation that could become campaign fodder was handled in committee to avoid potentially damaging floor votes. Committee chairs were given a fair amount of leeway to run their committees and reach consensus. The knock against Craddick was that he holds too tight a leash, often on behalf of special interests, limiting what his chairs can do and forcing members to take bad votes. The result was that policy was created, even entire bills written, on the House floor. It was here that the speaker ruled with absolute authority, at times through a capricious interpretation of the rules. Craddick didn’t change his modus operandi much during the session. When it started to fall apart is hard to pinpoint. An event in early May seems to have been key. One way that Craddick controlled the chamber, and punished enemies, was by deciding which bills could be heard for a vote. Since he had many enemies this session, a number of them couldn’t get their local bills onto the calendar. Local bills matter most to constituents. For this reason, when a local bill of a Craddick lieutenant, Rio Grande City Democrat Ryan Guillen, received special treatment by jumping ahead on the calendar, many members were upset. Thompson raised a point of order that the bill’s appearance on the calendar violated House rules. The speaker overruled her. Then something happened that hadn’t occurred since 1973. Craddick’s ruling was challenged, and after much discussion, a vote of the House overturned it. Suddenly, Craddick looked vulnerable again. The insurgency rebounded.

Removing Craddick depended on the Republicans. Democrats could deliver a bloc of votes, but not enough to elect one of their own. Republicans who wanted Craddick gone faced the same problems they had in January. Each of the rebellion’s leaders wanted to be speaker, so no consensus candidate emerged. And they couldn’t trust each other. Some on the team seemed to waver between the two sides.

This uneasy status quo might have continued until the end if not for a question asked of the speaker on the Friday before the end of session. The insurgents had speculated on how a sitting speaker could be removed. Euless Republican Rep. Todd Smith asked Parliamentarian Denise Davis whether Craddick would have to recognize a member for a motion to vacate the chair. Davis apparently told him that while Craddick didn’t have to recognize, the ruling could be appealed. Enough confusion remained that Waco Democrat Rep. Jim Dunnam, head of the House Democratic Caucus, decided to ask the speaker himself from the back microphone of the chamber.

Dunnam posed a parliamentary inquiry on whether he or someone would be recognized on a motion to vacate the chair. At this point, Craddick could have said he would not rule until the motion was made, and that would have been the end of it. The insurgents probably didn’t have the votes, and the challenge would have likely fizzled. Instead, Craddick responded no. Dunnam then asked whether that ruling could be appealed. Craddick again responded no. The answer sent shock waves through the chamber. Craddick—ruling against his own parliamentarian—was saying there was no way he could be deposed during the session. It was an incredible demonstration of raw power and steely resolve.

Parliamentarian Davis and her deputy promptly quit. Craddick took a hurried recess as they were escorted from the building. The speaker returned hours later with two new parliamentarians—former Reps. Terry Keel and Ron Wilson—who had been privately advising him for at least a week. The rest of the session was akin to a mouse in a box sniffing out each side to determine the shape of its confinement. As it became clear that the box was solid, the antics of the insurgents grew more theatrical, culminating on the session’s last Sunday night with an aborted roll call to remove Craddick, and then an impromptu walkout.

While Craddick survived, it may have been a Pyrrhic victory. Even his stalwarts doubt he will be re-elected in 2009. The only way to change that dynamic would be to elect new, Craddick-friendly members to the House. This will make for an interesting election cycle.

David Pasztor, Matt Wright, and Patrick Michels also contributed to this report.

http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2519