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State Board of Education (SBOE) members begin their November 2022 meetings

Texas State Board of Education votes to reject private school vouchers

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

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Date Posted: 11/17/2022 | Author: Mark Wiggins

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) convened Wednesday, Nov. 16, in Austin for its last set of meetings of 2022 and the final ones for several departing members. The board’s meetings will continue through Friday. As one of their final acts of the year, SBOE members formally voted during a meeting of the Committee of the Full Board to oppose vouchers in the upcoming 2023 legislative session.

The agenda for the November SBOE meetings includes voting on legislative priorities and finalizing a bare bones revision to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies intended to align with changes mandated by Senate Bill (SB) 3, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2021.

The board heard a review of its priorities from the 2021 legislative session before voting on individual policy priorities for the legislative session that begins January 2023. Final votes will take place Friday at the full board hearing. Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff also presented the agency’s own priorities along with its funding requests for the upcoming session during the Wednesday meeting.

SBOE Member Audrey Young (R-Apple Springs), a special education administrator by profession, questioned the agency’s continuation of the Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) program. The voucher-style program was initiated by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and grants tax dollars to private citizens for the purchase of supplemental education services. Public schools are already required under federal and state law to provide, free of charge, any services deemed necessary under a student’s individualized education program (IEP). Programs that grant public funds to private individuals are notoriously difficult to police. Young relayed anecdotal reports that SSES funds are already being spent on items outside of their intended use and said the program is negatively impacting public education funding by diverting millions of dollars to fund SSES.

SBOE logoAs one of its legislative priorities, the Republican-majority board called on the legislature “to reject all attempts to divert public dollars away from public schools in the form of vouchers, an education savings account, taxpayer savings grants, tuition tax credits, a business franchise tax credit or an insurance premium tax credit, or any other mechanisms that have the effect of reducing funding to public schools.” The recommendation passed by a preliminary vote of 8-3, with Members Sue Melton-Malone (R-Robinson), Tom Maynard (R-Florence), and Young voting against the recommendation. Explaining her vote, Young contended the board should instead ask the legislature to evaluate the current public education budget and expenditures and require input or approval from the SBOE.

Other SBOE priorities focused on charter schools. The board voted to ask the legislature to expand the board’s authority from the approval of new charter school chains to include expansions of existing charter schools, which are currently approved by the unelected commissioner of education and represent the largest avenue of charter school growth. The board also voted to establish that charter schools should follow the same rules as independent school districts.

Member Will Hickman (R-Houston) put forward a suggestion that new charters approved by the SBOE should be granted a charter for three years and return to the SBOE for a progress report and a veto or no action by the board prior to being granted a permanent charter. Members split evenly over the idea and did not incorporate it into their legislative recommendations.

The board unanimously approved a suggestion by outgoing Member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) to urge the legislature to raise the minimum salary schedule for educators by 50% and fully fund it. Cortez noted that educator salaries must increase if the state is to stem the tide of educators leaving the profession.

On instructional materials, the board recommended requiring districts to use textbooks approved by the SBOE or seek a waiver from TEA, combining the SBOE approval process with the Texas Resource Review (TRR), and aligning instructional materials to cover 100% of TEKS standards. The board also voted to ask the legislature to provide SBOE members with employment benefits and staff support.

The board’s three committees are meeting Thursday, and the Committee on School Initiatives is scheduled to receive an update from TEA staff on the edTPA performance assessment issue. The SBOE vetoed a rule change by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) earlier this year that would have replaced the pedagogy and professional responsibilities (PPR) certification exam with edTPA. After the veto, the SBOE asked agency staff and SBEC to work with stakeholders to explore alternative methods for improving educator preparation program accountability.

The full board will meet for its final votes of the year Friday. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.


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