ACTION ALERT: Urge your Representative to oppose SB 1718

Tomorrow (Tuesday, May 21) the House is scheduled to debate and vote on Senate Bill (SB) 1718 by Sen. Royce West (D–Dallas) and sponsored by Rep. Harold Dutton (D–Houston). Please call or email your state representative today and urge him to oppose this dangerous bill.

SB 1718 proposes a drastic way of dealing with underperforming campuses by removing them from their home school districts and adding them to a new statewide school district called the Texas Achievement School District (ASD). The commissioner of education, who is appointed by the governor, would appoint a statewide superintendent for the ASD and contract with private management companies to run the schools in the ASD.

Under SB 1718, after only one or two years of failing to meet state accountability standards (primarily based on student test scores), a school could be transferred to the ASD. Private vendors would manage the school, taking away the authority of the school board elected by the local community. Parents would be forced to direct any questions or concerns about their children’s education to an appointed ASD official in Austin rather than to their elected school board members or school district superintendent.

Many teachers and staff members at the school would lose their jobs, regardless of how well they perform their jobs. Those teachers who are allowed to keep their jobs would automatically lose their contract rights and nearly all of the benefits and protections afforded to them under the Texas Education Code. This creates a flagrant disincentive for high-quality teachers to go work in any school that is struggling and might be susceptible to removal to the ASD in the future. Teachers who have a choice of jobs will have no interest in taking a position that holds no job security. Without teacher contracts and quality measures, the school is likely to be filled with inexperienced teachers with low morale who can walk away from their jobs at any time, even in the middle of the school year.

Once exempted from many critical state laws, the school will no longer have to provide the same level of benefits to students. There would be no class-size limits in the elementary grades, no discipline standards and possibly no school buses if the school’s new management decides it does not want to spend the money on transportation.

SB 1718 proposes drastic reforms that have not been well-researched or properly planned. While an ASD might be an accountability reform worth pursuing in Texas in the future, the necessary planning and groundwork has not been done. Passing this bill in the final days of the legislative session would be a grave mistake that would harm students, families, educators and communities. We urge the Legislature to oppose SB 1718 and consider calling instead for a comprehensive study to be completed during the interim that will allow education stakeholders and legislative leaders to develop a more workable solution for struggling schools.

Please call or email your representative as soon as possible today and urge him to OPPOSE SB 1718.

To find contact info for your representative, enter your address here.

Be sure to identify yourself as an educator and a constituent.

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13 thoughts on “ACTION ALERT: Urge your Representative to oppose SB 1718

  1. Carilyn Pennington

    I am a retired public school teacher for Texas. I have worked with special programs to help slow learners and I know how schools are affected by students from poor households. I think it is very difficult to judge a school that may have a completely different setting than the affluent schools with all students coming from economically medium or affluent households. I do not believe that anything should be done to punish those schools that have to struggle because the schools cannot provide all the things a students needs to be successful.

  2. Brock Gregg - ATPE Gov. Relations

    Carolyn, thank you for your comment. You are on the right track with your statements. Please encourage your colleagues, both retired and active educators to call their Reps today to encourage us to study this issue before we jump into this privatization scheme to de-couple community schools from elected boards and turn them over to private companies.

  3. John Porter

    I support the ATPE action to request you not to support SB 1718 regarding a Texas Achievement School District (ASD) being approved this session. The rush of time this final week is not the venue for productive discussion on this issue.

    1. Brock Gregg - ATPE Gov. Relations

      John, Thanks for your comment. Please call your state representative today or tomorrow and give them the same message. Please ask your colleagues to do the same. The state should study this issue before it jumps into this idea that has not been proven to work in the two other states where it exists. The bill is up for debate in the Texas House tomorrow, so it is essential we contact the House members and urge them to study the issue and vote no on the bill until that study is completed over the next interim.

  4. Roberto Gonzalez

    Whether anyone likes it or not, students coming from an economically disadvantaged home face an uphill battle in their education from the start. Teachers also fight that uphill battle with them during all those years in school. Teachers that work in a school where the majority of the school population is that of economically disadvantage have to do more than teachers in other schools. Schools with a high percentage of English Language Learners also have to do more than teachers who mostly deal with students whose primary language is English. SB 1718 might look good on paper, but in reality there is no easy fix to failing schools. They got there because there are myriad of factors working against students and those that want them to achieve academic greatness. I already e-mailed my state rep. and will spread the word. Sometimes I feel saddened that some of the decisions that drive education are made by people whose only experience was when they were students and don’t understand that we educate the masses. We educate every child. We don’t pick and choose like private entities do. We educate all and truly leave no child behind. We even educate those that put up a fight everyday to not be educated. If SB 1718 goes through, private entities will find a way to pick and choose, and leave children behind.

  5. Leslie Henderson

    Education is truly a world of opposition. I too am saddened by the deteriation that we are witnessing. I am so opposed to this bill, which is a slap in the face to those who serve and represent education in the most sincere fashion. I will be praying.

  6. Jennifer Canaday - ATPE Governmental Relations

    We owe tremendous thanks to those who called and emailed their Representatives about this dangerous bill, and also to those legislators who have bravely fought to try to amend SB 1718 to impose some minimum quality standards on the Achievement School District that has been proposed. The bill is still pending, and we may not prevail, but you should take pride in the fact that you took a stand against the selling off our neighborhood schools to private management companies and continuing reform schemes that have little chance of helping the kids. If we really want to help struggling schools, let’s stop labeling them as failures and denying them the resources they need, such as adequate funding and high-quality teachers. That would truly be a new direction for Texas!

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