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Proposed Policy For Texas Schools May Do More Harm Than Good

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Summary: There is a proposal on the table by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas schools. They share a commitment to provide a high quality education for every child in the state of Texas. A commendable goal to be sure; however, their latest proposal for the Texas schools is drawing some opposition in high places. The governor and the Texas schools recently proposed a new policy to require all school districts in Texas to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on "direc...

There is a proposal on the table by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas schools. They share a commitment to provide a high quality education for every child in the state of Texas. A commendable goal to be sure; however, their latest proposal for the Texas schools is drawing some opposition in high places. The governor and the Texas schools recently proposed a new policy to require all school districts in Texas to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on "direct classroom instruction." The goal is to limit administrative costs and to spend more of their budgets on actual instruction. The problem is with the definition of "direct classroom instruction." The Texas schools define it as "activities associated with interaction of teachers and students." This includes teaching staff salaries and benefits, as well as classroom supplies, such as textbooks and teaching materials. The broad definition also includes transportation of athletic teams to their events. What is not covered are teacher professional development and curriculum, student counseling, and some library expenses. Texas representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio for District 21), according to the Austin-American Statesman, stated that teacher professional development is essential to delivering a quality education to Texas students. With the proposed policy, he said you can get an athletic team to an event, but the coach will lack the expertise and training to win the game. Straus believes this proposed policy will shortchange the teachers and ultimately shortchange the students, too. More opposition is coming from former Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who addressed the "65 percent proposal" recently in The New York Times. He believes the policy will limit educators at a time when they need to innovate the most. They need more freedom - not less. He wants the Texas schools to stress teacher professional development, Internet content to supplement lessons, and after-school tutoring opportunities for the students. None of these would be considered related to direct classroom instruction. Straus further stated that if the teachers are not prepared to do their jobs well, then any other efforts to improve student academic achievement will be a waste of time. The Austin-American Statesman article of July 21, 2006, noted that one in every two teachers in the United States will quite teaching within five years, and that more than 200,000 teachers will not return to teaching next fall - that is nearly six percent of all teachers across the nation. It was further noted that research has proven that new and effective forms of professional teacher development, along with powerful instructional methods, do improve teacher retention - not just in a particular school, but within the career field as well. Retention of quality teachers is essential for the Texas schools, as well as for student academic achievement. Retention requires training and development for the Texas schools' teachers. Without it, the goal of a quality education for every Texas schools student is lost.
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