Bad Bills Looking to Hitch a Ride

It’s that time of the legislative session—the last seven or eight days—when many a bill dies unless it can hitch a ride on another bill that already has made it further along over the legislative obstacle course. Into the “watch out for these dangerous hitchhikers” category we place the following bills opposed by Texas AFT:

–SB 127, the bill by Republican Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston that would increase the number of state-authorized charter schools without doing much of anything to improve charter quality, which on the whole (with some exceptions) has been mediocre to poor in Texas as elsewhere in America.

–SB 4, the bill by Republican Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano to impose a new state teacher-evaluation scheme stressing student test scores—without first conducting local trials of promising ideas, without assuring sufficient teacher involvement in developing the new system, and without preventing the  misuse of achievement-test data for evaluation purposes—including misuse of the sort we have seen in the Houston ISD “value-added” system.

–SB 1483, another Shapiro bill, which would expand the state’s virtual-school network, give online-course providers access to state funding on the same basis as a brick-and-mortar school, and let students take many more courses online despite well-documented research findings that show serious drawbacks of this approach, especially for at-risk students.

–Voucher bills:  Multiple versions of private-school vouchers have failed to advance in this legislative session so far, but not for lack of trying. We’re advising our allies in the House and Senate to watch out for one or more of them to pop up suddenly as an amendment to another bill in the coming week. Even a seemingly unrelated bill could be targeted.