This legislative session is so horrible for public education that the conclusion we may need to make is this:
Texas government is a threat to public schools and schoolchildren.
Can you make a couple calls on Wed to oppose SB 1365, the takeover bill, and HB 3979, both to be heard this week?
HB 3979/SB 2202 seek to discourage the teaching of current events, racism and other difficult topics in history. This bill will silence teachers, stifle civic engagement, and will give power to a racist agenda. The bill passed the House last week and yesterday, the Senate Ed Committee threw out all of the House amendments, returning all of the hate-filled original language to the bill.
- Send a letter that now targets senators: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/let-teachers-teach-keep-current-events-in-the-classroom?source=direct_link&
- Use this click-to-tweet link: https://ctt.ac/a84qS.
- Call your state senator.[LINK HERE]
SB 1365, the state takeover bill (Dutton and Bettencourt) is on the House calendar on Thursday. It combines the two state takeover bills (HB 3270 and HB 3731) into one very, very horrible bill.
WHAT THE BILL DOES
- Removes elected oversight of the commissioner of education’s decisions. The bill gives the appointed commissioner of education “final and unappealable” power that is unreviewable by any court of law, meaning the commissioner could violate state law without any mechanism for school districts or taxpayers to hold him accountable.
- Subjects almost every school district to immediate sanctions: The bill was recently expanded to redefine “unacceptable” performance to include campuses and districts with multiple D ratings. Previously, a campus had to receive an F to be considered “unacceptable.”
- Expands the use of the rating system to shame our children in the middle of a pandemic. SHAME
- Creates a conflict of interest in evaluating our schools. The bill also gives the commissioner of education the unilateral authority to create and adopt his own rules for evaluating our schools for the upcoming year. There’s a significant conflict of interest when the appointed commissioner who defines school rating labels is the same person who can take over the school district’s elected board based on those labels
- Undermines due process for school districts. Although TEA is not a law enforcement authority, the agency can classify a witness whose complaint may spark an investigation as “confidential” and not subject to disclosure via the Open Records Act.
Rep Huberty will be the main House sponsor of the bill, as there were concerns by leadership given Chairman Dutton’s previous bills. We need you to help lawmakers to understand how absurd it is to give away this much power to the commissioner.
BACKGROUND ON THE BILL
SB 1365 attempts to rewrite the state’s accountability rules so that the Texas Education Agency can circumvent inconvenient court rulings in its attempts to take over school districts and their locally elected boards.
This bill stems from TEA’s ongoing legal battle with Houston ISD and the resulting ruling from the 3rd Court of Appeals that demands the commissioner follow state law, which the court found the commissioner had not done on several occasions in the attempted takeover of HISD. After the appellate court granted HISD a temporary injunction, the case is headed to the Texas Supreme Court and is still NOT resolved.
THE IMPACT BEYOND HOUSTON ISD
While the bill seeks to address TEA's problematic handling of Houston ISD, Snyder and Shepherd ISDs have already faced takeover because of HB 1842. There isn’t enough data yet to judge whether those districts are improving. However, Marlin ISD was taken over by the state in 2016 based on its accountability rating and shows the state’s ability to manage districts. In the five years since TEA replaced Marlin ISD’s board of trustees with state-appointed managers, the district has seen a revolving door of managers, the suspension of the latest superintendent, and the revocation of Marlin’s accreditation status for the 2018-19 year — after failing state academic accountability standards.