Education briefs: HISD ruling, charter waitlists, Morath responds on opt out, and TRS holds trustee election

Ruling keeps injunction against state takeover of Houston ISD
The Texas Supreme Court affirmed Friday that an appellate court could maintain an injunction temporarily stopping the state from removing the Houston ISD’s School Board and replacing it with a Texas Education Agency Board of Managers. The 6-1 decision ruled on the legality of a procedural issue over injunctions against state administrative actions. The ruling is by no means a final say on the matter, and the Houston ISD lawsuit against the state will continue. Read the Houston Federation of Teachers statement on the ruling.

TEA report reveals bogus claims from charter chains’ ‘waitlists’
In the past, the charter industry often claimed there were anywhere between 150,000 to 200,000 students on a “waitlist” they maintained and used this number to argue for even more state dollars for a duplicate education system–one that is more costly than real public schools and lacks any voter accountability. 

Fortunately, a change in law last session helps clear up this myth long-promoted by the charter industry and other privatization proponents. The new law required TEA to request waitlist information from charters and found only 55,000 on this self-reported “waitlist.” The numbers still seem inflated considering the millions that charter schools spend on television advertising (including Super Bowl and World Series ads), glossy mailers, and even billboards on IH-35 trying to attract students.

Morath responds to lawmakers on STAAR opt-out request
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath finally responded to a February 8 letter from 68 House members asking the commissioner to develop a process for parents to opt-out their students from the STAAR exam. Morath’s March 9 reply notes that state and federal laws require testing and that the U.S. Department of Education, while giving increased flexibility, is still requiring testing in certain subject areas this spring. (The House members wrote their letter before the federal government made that determination.)

Morath continues to push the illogical notion that data from the STAAR test this spring will be important to gauge student growth. He also continues to weave the myth that STAAR is instrumental in helping teachers assess their students, as he writes: “Teachers need information on how students are doing relative to a consistent set of state standards, which is hard for individual classroom assessments or even entire courses to do, given all the other factors teachers must take into account when evaluating student work (e.g., effort, completion, etc.).” 

TRS trustee election underway
Ballots went out last week for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas election for the public education employee position on the Board of Trustees. The top three vote-getters from the six candidates will be submitted to the governor, who appoints his pick for a term from the fall of 2021 to 2027. The March TRS newsletter includes candidate profiles, and TRS members may vote online.