Perry's education plan to State Board of Education


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 11:48 PM

AUSTIN -- Students' voices raised in song marked Friday morning's meeting of the Texas State Board of Education, along with a message in the voice of Texas' chief executive.

"We've got work to do," Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) told the 15-member board, nearly half of which are newly elected, in a packed hearing blocks from the State Capitol.

Days after delivering his State of the State address before the 83rd Texas Legislature, Perry called upon board members to consider his vision for the future of public education in Texas.

"That future will by necessity involve more public charter schools, which offer parents a tuition-free alternative to their neighborhood schools," said Perry.

In Tuesday's address Perry outlined a focus on "school choice," emphasizing private school scholarships and easing testing requirements.

"We also need to allow students access to additional career tech courses," Perry said Friday. "Those courses in fields as far-ranging as engineering and veterinary science."

"Hopefully everybody comes here, and I think they do, with an understanding we're going to educate every kid in every classroom," Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Michael Williams told KVUE afterward.
Since his appointment last fall, Williams has been working on a new system to rate school accountability, which this week was opened for public comment.

Williams' has also petitioned the U.S. Department of Education to waive federal standards under "No Child Left Behind" for Texas, and like the rest of the education community he has been closely monitoring the legal battle over school finance.

On a much broader scale, however, Williams said there's no shortage of issues to address.

"Closing the racial achievement gap has to be job number one," said Williams. "We are a state where 60 percent of our nearly five million youngsters are economically disadvantaged. Almost 66 percent are brown and black."

While widely supported by the state's Republican leadership, the governor's proposals have come under criticism from a variety of corners. The brunt of their concerns have been over what wasn't touched on in his speech inside the House chamber.

"I heard no real mention of funding or of talking about some of the wonderful programs that got zeroed out of the budget last time around," said Monty Exter with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Exter points to programs such as pre-K, which many districts were forced to scale back after 2011 budget cuts eliminated Early Start grants.

"Last time around they cut nearly $6 billion out of school funding," said Exter. "They are not addressing those issues, instead they continue to want to address issues that only involve a very small percentage of the student population as opposed to addressing issues that are going to affect the five million students overall."

At least Friday, the musical strains from a group of talented Texas students provided education leaders with a few minutes of harmony, while the heated debate over the future of their education rages on.