How to Become an Academic Success Story: The Importance of Teaching in Schools
By now, you’re probably well-acquainted with the fact that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) is a highly centralized bureaucracy that is notorious for overstepping its authority and violating its own laws.
The agency’s overreach is so egregious that its head, David Dewhurst, is facing multiple federal investigations over the past year.
But it is the agency’s failure to implement and enforce the most important rule of its charter: the Texas Charter Schools Act.
In fact, the Texas charter school accountability system is so underfunded that even the TEA is admitting it has no idea what it is doing.
Teachers are not allowed to be compensated, even if they perform well.
The TEA does not allow teachers to be awarded raises, unless they receive a bonus.
In the past two years, the TECAs own charter school districts have lost over $500 million dollars.
And teachers are often forced to work long hours to cover the costs of running their own schools, even though their salaries and benefits are subsidized by the taxpayer.
All of this makes Texas a particularly dangerous place to teach.
Texas has the second-highest school dropout rate in the country, behind only California.
According to a study published last year by the Brookings Institution, one in five Texas students graduate from high school with an “unable-to-accommodate” score of 3.8 or less.
The data also reveals that the state’s public school system is not adequately equipped to provide the high-quality education its students need to succeed.
Many schools are also underfunded, as well as poorly maintained.
This is especially true of the public schools, where more than a quarter of all students have disabilities.
The TEA has taken a hard line against the Texas Teacher’s Association, a union that has endorsed candidates who are opposed to charter schools and for charter school reform.
TEA President Jim Dolan has called the TEAA “a powerful lobby for the corporate interests” and accused them of “stealing the American public’s future for their own selfish benefit.”
The TEAA also is opposed to the state budget that was passed last year, which would have provided billions of dollars to charter and voucher schools.
To the dismay of many Texans, the state of Texas has not been willing to change its charter school laws to allow for more accountability.
Instead, the TCEA has lobbied aggressively to prevent reforms and is actively lobbying against charter reform.
When the Texas legislature recently passed the “Teach-in” bill, it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, including from President Obama, who said it would provide “real accountability for every student in our state’s schools.”
This past week, the Supreme Court sided with the TEAs position, striking down a provision in the bill that would have required TEA-backed candidates to show that they had received training in teaching English as a second language (ESL) as a prerequisite for receiving funding for their charter schools.
But the Supreme is likely to reverse that decision, which could set a precedent for a host of other charter school reforms that will make the charter school system even more difficult to run.
At a time when there is a crisis in our education system, the failure to enforce the law is so devastating, it is unsurprising that many of the teachers who have the greatest power in the classrooms are the ones most at risk of being fired and left without a job.
As a teacher who has had to make hard decisions to keep her students safe, I cannot support charter school policies that put our students’ safety at risk.
We have all the tools to protect students from bullying, but we need to do more.
Instead of allowing charter school operators to get away with violating their own laws, we need legislation that requires charter schools to comply with all of the federal and state laws that govern charter schools, including the requirements to provide for timely and adequate termination notices, timely and effective termination procedures, and the proper training of employees.
These reforms should also require all charter schools that receive funding from the TECSA to have full and fair board elections that give all voters an opportunity to assess the charter operator’s actions and conduct a fair election.
Since its inception in 2015, Texas has witnessed a significant shift in charter school policy.
But in the meantime, Texas is a state that continues to suffer from a lack of accountability and a lack a system to enforce it.
Like the rest of the country and the rest on the left, I strongly support charter schools but am deeply concerned that our system of accountability is broken.
This story originally appeared on National Review Online.