From the Laboratories of Bad Government

Officials in Austin and Washington have given us some fresh examples in recent days of misguided and misplaced policy priorities.

Item:  Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath on Tuesday approved an application for a state charter-school license despite the fact that the same applicant—Athlos Academy—had been rejected by the State Board of Education last year because of assorted shortcomings relating to its out-of-state governance and business connections. This year’s public interview with Athlos functionaries by Texas Education Agency staff suggested only cosmetic changes had been made in the new Athlos bid for a charter. The State Board of Education will have the last word on this and other pending charter applications at its next meeting in July.

Item: U.S. Secretary of Education John King on May 26 issued proposed rules for the new Every Student Succeeds Act that in important ways would run counter to the new law’s intent to cut down on test-driven accountability measures. The proposal would have the effect of inhibiting efforts by parents to opt out of standardized state tests for their children, and it would put time pressure on districts to implement any new accountability models, increasing the likelihood that states would fall back on the familiar, test-driven approach. A period for public comment on the proposals has begun. Texas AFT and the national AFT will take advantage of the opportunity to push for a sharper departure from the status quo, as Congress envisioned when the new law was passed in December.

Item: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick remains preoccupied with the issue of which bathrooms transgender children will be allowed to use. He not only has denounced federal anti-discrimination guidelines on this topic but also is on the attack against local policy judgments that are not aligned with his view of the issue. Thus he has asked Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton for an advisory opinion restricting the power of local school authorities to act on their best judgment in such matters.

Paxton already has filed suit against the federal government over the anti-discrimination guidelines, so Patrick’s request is likely to receive a friendly reception from the AG’s opinion committee. The common thread here seems to be the premise that wisdom on sensitive social questions like this one resides uniquely at the state rather than either the federal or local level.