Lt. Governor Dewhurst and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick held a press conference today in a parochial school near the Capitol to discuss the legislation related to school reform that Senator Patrick will file this session (though no legislation has been filed at the time this report was written).
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst first emphasized the importance of school safety, and then discussed issues he expects to see addressed by legislation this session, such as accountability, competition, and expanded options for Career and Technology Education (CTE).
Senator Patrick described the specifics of the legislation he expects to file, including the provisions related to school choice. His legislation will propose a tax credit up to 25% for businesses that choose to donate to a scholarship program for disadvantaged students to attend private schools. This tax credit differs from other proposals that would have provided a credit to families who send their children to private schools, and Senator Patrick noted that public schools could also apply for the scholarship funds to put toward pre-K and afterschool programs. Lt. Governor Dewhurst said this program would start as a modest pilot to prove it is effectiveness and does not take money away from public schools. Senator Patrick also plans to propose an expansion of public school choice to include both inter-district and intra-district transfers to schools with capacity and an expansion of charter schools.
In addition to the discussion of school choice, Senator Patrick also covered other elements of his proposal which included reducing the number of end-of-course assessments, an accountability system that assigns letter grades of A-F and carries consequences of a parent trigger for closure after two years of F ratings, and greater flexibility for school districts in terms of the 15 percent requirement, graduation requirements, and school start date. Students would have more flexibility as well, especially for those who want to pursue options related to career more so than college.
The Coalition for Public Schools released a statement in response to this announcement that expressed opposition to the proposal saying “At a time when students and educators are feeling the impact of unprecedented state budget cuts in our neighborhood schools, attempting to take taxpayer dollars from public schools to educate a relative handful of students who could attend private schools is the height of irresponsibility.”