In a packed room at the San Antonio Public Library, experts in the area of school finance and school administration discussed this complex and frequently asked question: What does the Future of public education look like in Texas? Panelists included Trinity University’s Dr. Shari Albright, Northside ISD’s Dr. Brian Woods, SAISD’s Pedro Martinez, and Texas Association of School Boards’ Catherine Cook. Each panelist brought forth their individual perspective on the actions taken by the 85th Legislature and what is to be expected in the special session, which is scheduled to commence on July 18th.
Ranging from school finance, teacher preparation and leadership training to accountability, panelists were asked to dive into difficult issues. No topic was off limits with what could only be described as a highly educated and engaged audience. However, at the end of the discussion one theme was common, and that was that the status quo is not enough for the future of Texas’ more than five million young students in public education.
“For a state as large as it is, there is a focus on short-term solutions to issues rather than a focus on long-range planning,” said Woods. “In any system, there needs to be investment in infrastructure, and what better and more important infrastructure than on our human capital.”
Panelists were also asked to give their input on the most recent changes to the accountability system. In the 84th Legislative session, ISDs and school campuses individually are to be evaluated on what is now commonly known as the ‘A-F system.’ After the preliminary release of “mock” ratings, there was a nearly unanimous agreement that the proposed system was flawed and in need of improvement. What improvements were needed were fiercely debated and continue to be debated between educators, legislators and community leaders. However, on Monday night, panelists agreed that one universal system cannot appease every audience.
“We have become so test driven that we have forgotten about instilling the love of life-long learning in our students,” said Martinez. The hyper focus on test scores over the last 10-15 years has led to a reaffirmation of what many school officials have observed for years, that there is a strong correlation between student performance and the economics of the student’s family.
Every panelist agreed that the special session promises no winners for public education, rather it further divides an already fragile network of supporters and funders for Texas’ public school attendees.
For more information on how you can get engaged in the Chamber’s Education/Workforce Committee please email Priscilla Camacho.