Although Yogi would caution me that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”, as we enter the last week of the special session of the 82nd Texas Legislature, it appears that our education reform coalition has successfully achieved its top priority for the session, which was the defense of HB 3, the comprehensive public school accountability legislation adopted in 2009. This was no mean accomplishment, because the forces aligned against this defense and seeking to undermine the previous achievement were formidable, led by the Chairman of the House Public Education Committee and the superintendents of substantially all the major school districts in the state.
This “victory” was not without cost. For starters, the battle should not have been necessary in the first place and was an unproductive preoccupation on the part of a large number of policy advocates and elected officials and their staffs. Less than two years after the adoption of what has been rated the nation’s highest and most comprehensive high school graduation standard, we should have expected a break from the intense accountability debates to at least allow full implementation of the new system. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The result was an opportunity missed to move ahead with other much-needed reforms, primarily in the role of the state in the management of school district human resources and in the preparation of educators. Some of these have found their way into legislation that remains pending, but the preoccupation with “fighting the last war” over accountability prevented the full treatment of a comprehensive approach to these policy issues.
All things considered, however, the outcome could have been much worse, and this includes the education budget crisis, but there is much more to be done and said on this latter issue, and I suspect that all we did in this instance was buy a little time and begin to prepare the intensive debate soon to come on the absolutely necessary overhaul of education cost structures and the transformation of delivery systems, because the days of scrambling to finance the existing antiquated model are over–it simply is no longer sustainable.
For more information on the results of the regular and special legislative sessions, look for the wrap up edition of the TIER Capitol Report soon or go to www.texaseducationreform.org.