Contrary to what some state leaders may believe, not all of us who represent Texas public schools are liberals or “educrats,” as described by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in his to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Most of us are parents, many with conservative views and values, who ran for the school board or got involved in our local school districts in order to improve education and make a difference for the children in our communities and across Texas.
As an elected official, I take the time to listen to those who work with our children every day. We need our state’s leaders to listen and work together to find real solutions.
Patrick said in his speech that he is listening to his constituents. But I am his constituent, and his message to me was to stay home — to “save [my] money” and “don’t bother to come to Austin to lobby” for what I believe is best for the students in my district and Texas.
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Well, I am not going to stay home. Not only because I care too much, but also because it is my duty under the law to advocate for public education and the more than 5.2 million Texas children who attend our public schools.
I am not going to stop speaking out about:
School finances and the importance of funding the unfunded mandates passed by the state that take money out of public school budgets.
The “8 percent to 9 percent increases annually in school district budgets” are not wholly accurate.
In Fort Bend ISD, where I serve as board president, the budget has experienced an average increase of only 2.56 percent over the past eight years, including increased enrollment.
In 2017-18, although property values are expected to increase 9-10 percent, FBISD’s total revenue will decrease for the second consecutive year.
Property taxes. Patrick suggested that when the property appraisals increase, the school districts are receiving the benefit and the state is “not capping” school district funding. This is simply untrue.
The additional funding generated from rising property appraisals does not go to the school districts. Their funding decreases. The additional money goes to the state’s general fund.
Accountability and support for a system that is not based on a flawed, high-stakes test, STAAR.
I am asking for the repeal of the “A-F” grading system for schools not because I do not believe in accountability, but because I believe in fair and accurate accountability.
Patrick stated in his speech that this issue will be “a battle with local elected officials and the educrats who have forgotten it’s about the kids, not adults.”
As a parent of three school-aged children, one with a disability, I assure you I have not forgotten that it is about the kids.
I have a daughter who will never pass STAAR, and her school is penalized for it. Her failure on this test, which is not her fault or the fault of her teachers, will reflect in the letter grade assigned to her school.
Accountability must allow for multiple ways to assess a child.
Real school “choice,” not the mythical system of “choice” that may be considered this session.
As a parent of a child with a disability, I am frustrated when I hear state leaders use my child as an excuse to support school vouchers, because I have advocated for inclusive education for children with disabilities for 16 years.
This notion of “choice” for students in special education is a myth. There are almost no inclusive private schools in Texas that will admit my daughter, only schools that exclusively serve students with disabilities.
These schools do a fine job, but they do not do it in an inclusive environment, for which the disability community has fought for over 40 years.
The benefits of my daughter’s inclusive public school education are enormous.
Instead of offering money to leave public schools, I suggest leaders focus efforts on changing the culture in Texas to include and educate all students by creating policies that foster an inclusive educational environment.
With Texas’ changing demographics, education is complicated, and we all must be open to listening and learning to achieve the best solutions for all Texas children.
I’m open to ideas and opinions and hope Lt. Gov. Patrick is open to mine.
Kristin Tassin serves as president of the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees. She is an attorney practicing in Houston.