Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

June 28, 2007

Who knew board members were so sensitive?

Filed under: education, Texas — texased @ 1:15 pm

The Daily Times

Public school teachers and employees concerned about operations at their school districts now have added protection to voice those issues with elected members of their school boards.

But this isn’t “good business practice” according to the Ingram School Board president. Excuse me? If your boss is cooking the books you should first report to your boss so that he can fire you before you have a chance to go any further up the “chain of command?”

And then there is the superintendent who is just trying to protect the board members.

The Daily Times

Faust said board members may feel uncomfortable about listening to employees, and the change may require additional training. Contact information for board members is not available on the school district’s Web site, and Faust only provided contact information for Ingram board president Freddie Hawkins to respond to questions about this subject.

So why isn’t contact information available on the website? They are public officials who were voted into office by the public they serve, not the superintendent. If you don’t want voters to be able to contact you after you win office (and teachers are voters), then don’t run!

Given Faust’s attitude, it seems to me this law should have passed a long time ago.

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June 27, 2007

Wasteful spending in San Antonio, political investments in Midland

Filed under: education, Higher Education, Rick Perry, Texas — texased @ 9:16 am

Perry’s reasoning for vetoing the San Antonio Life Sciences Institute (SALSI) makes even less sense after reading the Express-News editorial.

MySA.com: Editorials

The governor said he doesn’t want to create more top research institutions before a new commission on higher education and global competitiveness comes up with a plan for the most effective use of funds.

This isn’t a new school. The institute was established by the legislature in 2001. It has already received $6.5 million in funding. It may or may not be deserving of the requested $6 million. It was at least as deserving as UT Permian Basin that received over $16 million dollars.

I think what bothers me more than anything else is that “he” -Perry- “doesn’t want to create more top research institutions” makes it sound like he is the sole authority of how many “top” research institutions Texas gets to have. I get the impression that this institute could not possibly exist without Perry’s blessing. The fact that it was created by a previous legislature is irrelevant.

All things considered, the SALSI is probably better off if it can develop without relying on the whims of state government. It’s just Perry’s political arrogance bugs me. How convenient to use the commission as an excuse to justify a veto in this case. What commission does he use to justify the cases he didn’t veto?

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June 22, 2007

But he doesn’t forget his friends

Filed under: education, Higher Education, Rick Perry, Texas — texased @ 3:48 pm

Here’s a list of higher education projects vetoed by Perry as pork.

The body count: Perry’s higher ed vetoes

The body count: Perry’s higher ed vetoes

Too bad he doesn’t give a reason for all the pork he leaves in.

Perry signs budget, blasts higher education funding

Perry reiterated his demand, aired in February, that lawmakers place all higher education special items in a portion of the budget subject to his line-item veto. Thirty-six special items added late in the legislative session by House and Senate negotiators and costing $123 million wound up subject to his veto pen, and he vetoed 14 of them.

But scores of other special items worth hundreds of millions of dollars were sprinkled through the budget and therefore remained essentially veto-proof. For example, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, near Speaker Tom Craddick’s hometown of Midland, received $9 million for “instruction enhancement” and $7.4 million for “institutional enhancement.”

So how were items determined to be “special items” and listed separately subject to line item veto? How does “institutional enhancement” at Permain Basin contribute to state’s set goals for improving enrollment and graduation rates but a museum of fine arts at Angelo State University does not?

Now I don’t claim to know how these things were listed in the budget but it seems to me that if Perry could veto the community colleges’ group health insurance, he could have also found a way to veto other times that were “sprinkled” through the budget.

Does anyone know what Perry stands for and what he’s against in term of education issue?

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June 20, 2007

A conspiracy of community colleges

Filed under: community colleges, Rick Perry — texased @ 1:46 pm

2-year colleges: Veto on funds makes cuts likely | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest

However, the governor said that in their budget requests submitted last fall, community and junior colleges tried to pass off as state-paid employees a large number who are paid with locally generated funds. Mr. Perry didn’t specify how many, though he said because of mislabeling, districts sought $126 million too much.

He lopped off the second year of their appropriation for group health insurance, which was an amount $28 million higher. He said the campuses have enough money to make ends meet.

Mr. Perry also said in his veto proclamation that two-year colleges “falsified their appropriations requests.”

If this were really true, shouldn’t the attorney general be involved and these presidents be charged with something illegal? We’re talking about 50 community colleges that apparently got together to falsify their budgets. Where are the conspiracy theorists when you need them?

Maybe it’s Perry who has “falsified” his reasons for attacking the community colleges and raising local property taxes.

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June 19, 2007

The Perry legacy?

Filed under: community colleges, Higher Education, Rick Perry — texased @ 7:41 pm

I guess health insurance for college employees is now considered pork.

MySA.com: Metro | State

Among Gov. Rick Perry’s flurry of vetoes last week, a $154 million cut in health insurance for community college faculty has stunned college leaders across the state and sent them scrambling to make up for the loss in already-tight budgets.

Though the cut won’t take effect until 2009, Texas’ 50 community colleges will probably start planning for the losses now, and could be forced to raise tuition or local property taxes, cut staff, or charge employees more for insurance, said Steven Johnson, director of external relations for the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

“It’s a big hit,” Johnson said.

In his written comments about the veto, Perry accused colleges of falsifying budget requests to get more money than they deserve, a charge that incensed college leaders and lawmakers. He said the state should cover insurance only for employees paid with state money, which excludes those paid with federal grants or funds from other sources.

Perry’s office did not return a call seeking clarification.

 

Johnson and McClendon say the funding equation was hashed out during countless hours of budget discussions. In fact, they said, an early version of Perry’s own proposed budget included the health insurance money.

This really is bizarre. Perry can’t even point to this as being a pet pork project of specific campus. He’s hitting all community colleges at once. What is he thinking?

This is the person who wants the state to issue a bond for $3 billion to fund cancer research. Where does he think he’s going to get the people to do the research, import from out of state?

This is the person who wants to provide voters with some sort of property tax relief. Where does he think the community colleges are going to get the money to make up for the cuts–the good fairy?

I guess Perry is really going to need more money for his statewide business slush economic development incentive fund. Any company that requires high skilled labor will be able to use the money to move qualified workers in from out of state.

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June 17, 2007

This passes for leadership in Texas

Unbelievable.

MySA.com: State Government

Higher education cuts included a $6 million veto for a San Antonio Life Sciences Institute. The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas Health Science Center had jointly asked for it, saying it would stimulate growth of the city’s biomedical and biotechnology industries and spur commercialization of research products.

UTSA and UTHSC officials couldn’t be reached for comment, but Perry said he doesn’t want to create more top research institutions before a new commission on higher education and global competitiveness drafts a long-term plan for efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

Texas A&M University-International in Laredo lost $5 million from Perry’s vetoes that had been earmarked for “student success” initiatives to expand doctoral degree programs in business and outreach in math and science.

There may or may not have been good reason to line item veto some of the “pork” in the higher education funding bills. However, Perry’s argument that he “doesn’t want to create more top research institutions” is absolutely mind boggling.

Excuse me, did he miss the entire Top 10% Rule controversy this past session? How there simply wasn’t enough room at UT Austin to accommodate all the students who were qualified to attend? How many of these students would rather go out of state rather than attend another college in Texas?

He wants to wait before creating another top research institution because we might create more than we need? And just out of curiosity, since he only cut $35.9 million out $123 million in higher education earmarks, what was so special about the $87 million he didn’t cut?

June 16, 2007

A symbol of Little League values?

Filed under: cultural values, sports — texased @ 7:39 pm

This past week was San Antonio’s Little League District 19 city tournament.

Texas District Tournament Schedules

2007 City Championship Tournaments

The results so far are:

  • 10 and Under: McAllister Park National
  • 12 and Under: McAllister Park National
  • Little League: McAllister Park National
  • Juniors: McAllister Park National
  • Seniors: Alamo Heights
  • Softball Minors: McAllister Park American
  • Little League Softball: Northside Suburban
  • Softball Juniors: McAllister Park

Notice a pattern here? McAllister Park is so big, even split into American and Nationals, it still dominates everyone else. And just to make sure that McAllister has every chance possible to make it into the tournament, teams from their two leagues do not play each other at the bottom of the brackets. This courtesy certainly didn’t extend to other districts last year with two teams in the tournament.

Now this situation, McAllister being at least twice the size of a good many other leagues in the district, has been going on for some time. Even if officials higher up in the Little League organization actually believe the population numbers coming out District 19*, surely they might suspect something is not quite right?

Apparently, it’s more important to some people that McAllister shows up in the state tournaments than providing the optimal playing experience for as many Little Leaguers in San Antonio as possible. Never mind that McAllister has been known to turn away people because they reached their “limit” and deny them the chance to play in another league. What seems to guide the district policy is to ensure that McAllister Park has the best all-star team possible.

This seems to be at odds with the Little League policy of encouraging leagues to have as many players as possible making the all-stars. According to what we have been told, Little League will allow an all-star team to have three coaches in the dugout only if there are 13 or more players on the team. Otherwise, they can only have two which would require a player as one of the base coaches. This is supposedly to encourage leagues to put more kids on the teams. If McAllister park was split up, it would at least double the number of all-star positions available.

But then they might not be assured of dominating tournaments in the district. This is causing problems beyond their league since other leagues are considering merging so that they’re better able to compete with McAllister Park. So instead of having three all-star teams, they will be consolidated into one all-star team that can compete against McAllister.

Ultimately, this focus on having a “quality” all-star team from San Antonio is hurting the district as whole. Yet nothing is being done. I guess we know what’s important in District 19.

*Once an area reaches a certain population level, leagues are supposed to be broken up. Despite the fact that McAllister covers the fastestgrowing area of San Antonio, it somehow reports that it remains under this limit. However, in order to make it believable, the district hasto make sure the population being reported for other leagues “correlates”with McAllister’s. That means smaller leagues are reporting smaller populations than what actually exists. It would be interesting to see the reported base populations by the various leagues and see just how closely they reflect the city’s actual population.

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June 12, 2007

Who will be cheating now?

Filed under: Accountability, cheating, education, TAKS — texased @ 9:52 am

If you think there is cheating with the TAKS exam now, wait until you have end of the course exams.

End-of-course tests go to Perry | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest

In addition to determining whether a student graduates, the new exams also would count 15 percent toward the final grade in each subject.

Currently, it appears to be the teachers or administration encouraging cheating, not the students. The TAKS doesn’t affect a student’s grade at all. All high school students have to do is to meet some minimum score on a general exam to get a diploma. Their gpas are safe from any sort of “objective” accountability.

What do you think will happen when A students start failing the end of course exam? I’m guessing that most people see this as something happening at poorer, academically weaker schools. These people will be breathing a sigh of relief when they can say their Algebra II class is far more academically demanding than those at some poorer school.

But just think, if that A means so much more in Collin county and the end of course exam is 15% of the grade, who do you think is going to be more likely to cheat? I’m betting on the ones for who that A is so much more important for their GPAs and college applications. Of course, as long as these districts are wealthy, they don’t have to worry since everyone knows that wealthy districts don’t cheat.

June 11, 2007

Maybe it was an oversight?

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 12:13 pm

Amazing! Not a single “opposing” view of homeschooling in the article.

Giving Proper Credit To Home-Schooled – washingtonpost.com

Admissions officers accustomed to evaluating class rankings, transcripts and recommendations from professional teachers have long faced challenges in evaluating home-schooled applicants. How much weight should be given to student performance in a class of one or two? Or credits assigned for horseback riding or hiking the Appalachian Trail? Or glowing recommendations from Mom?

June 10, 2007

Keeping the playing field “fair”

Filed under: Homeschooling — texased @ 7:00 pm

Where is all the evidence for homeschoolers stacking teams?

TSO – homeschool policy

It is presumed that a home school team will be composed of children who have a pre-existing relationship of working together on a regular basis. We will require a statement from the coach as to the nature of that relationship. An “all star” team assembled by student abilities rather than by their pre-existing regular study relationship would not be allowed. Since this is a new aspect of the Texas Science Olympiad, we may establish additional criteria as the home school activity materializes and unforeseen problems become known. Our desire is to provide this opportunity to as many children as possible while, at the same time, keeping the playing field level.

How many of these teams come from magnet schools–you know schools that draw kids from all over a school district, maybe even outside the district, but certainly not from the same assigned school?

Do these kids all attend the exact same science, English, history, classes at school? Is it possible that many of the public school teams have kids that share an advanced science class but no others?

What’s sad is that I’m sure many of these public school teams do consist of kids who all attend the exact same honors or advance classes. These teams are undoubtedly “assembled by student abilities.” I bet in some of the more competitive magnet schools, there are even “try-outs.” They in no way represent the greater student population of the school. And these teams are more “fair” than a homeschool team formed of kids who just want to share their passion for a particular subject–whether they’re good at it or not?

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