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.