Privatization is a way to justify less government funding in public education. Privatization is a way to justify the new-era segregation of our schools with a legal separate-but-equal system. And privatization is a way to distract from the social justice questions of our day like the root causes of poverty, the need for universal healthcare and systemic discrimination in our criminal justice system, to name just a fewRead More
Good evening. My name is Ben Becker. I am a father of three and a public school parent in Houston ISD.
I have come 200 miles today, because I am concerned about the fate of public education in Texas. Waco is also a special place for me. My wife and I met at Baylor and married here. I lived in Waco a total of 10 years—many of them as a member of the business community.
As a matter of fact, the beginning of my advocacy in public education started as a volunteer for three years at Alta Vista Elementary School—one of the schools whose fate hangs in the balance of the state’s threats of closure and the decision to begin privatization in Waco ISD before you tonight.
Let me be clear—the possibility of even one more school anywhere in Texas being closed is a grim concern. But my wife and I, along with friends in Houston and Dallas and Austin, come to you today to caution you—caution you to look at the bigger picture of what’s at stake.
Your decision to charter or partner with a third party to manage Waco ISD schools has implications far beyond these five campuses. To outsource your management of these schools is an acceptance of the state’s power to force local school boards to give up democratic control. It’s an acceptance that the state’s accountability system and its chronic underfunding of K-12 public education is acceptable.
I have followed news of this board and its new superintendent closely. I know many of you have reservations about the state’s so-called Lonestar Governance program and whether the ever-increasing focus on standardized test scores is a positive evolution for public education.
Closing schools is bad. No one wants to see that. But savings democratically-controlled public education is vital.
I urge you—do not acquiesce to the TEA. Do not let them hold your schools hostage and only give you bad options. The TEA is bullying you and bullying other high-poverty districts around the state like mine.
And the only way to answer a bully is to stand together and stand up. No one district, no one board can fight the TEA alone.
I urge you—before you do one more thing, rally with other under-funded and over-regulated districts and challenge the TEA in court.
I urge you—before you make such high-stakes turn over your schools under duress, make the TEA prove that the STAAR test complies with laws like HB743—if you do, you’ll find as parents who sued the TEA two years ago, that it doesn’t.
Make the TEA prove STAAR results actually reflect differences in teaching and curriculum as opposed to being simply correlated with socio-economic status—if you do, you’ll find as UT professor Dr. Walter Stroup did—that STAAR scores are statistically insensitive to instruction.
The end game of both state accountability and the slow suffocation of underfunding Texas public education is PRIVATIZATION. Partnering with third parties to run your schools via the charter expansions in SB1882 and doing so under the school board death threat in HB1842 is a clear. path. to that. privatization. end.
I ask you… Will Waco ISD play TEA’s game and lose its schools? Will Waco ISD accept sanction after sanction and abdicate its voter’s democratic control of their schools? Or will you, as trustees, as stewards of Waco’s schools, as advocates for public education, will you be a part of the resistance to state overreach and defend our schools? Will you defend our children? Will you help save public education?Read More
Now that we’ve all been able to hear the candidates’ positions on repeat at candidate forums these last few months, we thought we would kick off our campaign finance analysis. Understanding donors to trustees is important, because after the election is over, we need to know who will have access and influence with these trustees over the coming four years.
We’ll be publishing a list of notable donors for each campaign over the coming weeks and keep them updated as new finance reports are published.
Today, we start at the top of the list — District 1, Gretchen Himsl.
Already clear from her endorsement by Houstonians for Great Public Schools (Houston GPS), an organization which pushes to make testing outcomes the center of the school board’s focus and her work as an analyst at Children At Risk which is most widely known for its school rating system heavily based on STAAR scores, Gretchen Himsl is clearly the candidate most tied to the state’s accountability system. Her campaign logo even has a No. 2 pencil in it.
This pro-accountability position is confirmed with the endorsements and donations from the current HISD District 1 Trustee Anna Eastman and three other former HISD trustees: Paula Arnold, Catherine Mincberg, and Dianne Johnson. All of these trustees are pro-STAAR, pro-accountability trustees.
Paula Arnold and Catherine Mincberg were a part of the beginning of standards-based reform and decentralization in Houston ISD as chronicled in the book by Don McAdams: Fighting to Save Our Urban Schools-- and Winning!: Lessons from Houston.
To give context around the ongoing connection of former trustees Arnold and Mincberg to high-stakes, test-based education reform, take a look at Center for Reform of School Systems, an education governance consulting firm on which Paula Arnold serves as a board member along side the Godfather of No Child Left Behind, Rod Paige. Catherine Mincberg and Rod Paige serve as “faculty” at CRSS, and CRSS’s founder and chairman is Donald McAdams, a republican and former HISD trustee, who hired Rod Paige as superintendent and helped usher in the decentralization and high-stakes testing culture that HISD suffers from today.
Arnold and Mincberg are both donors to Gretchen’s campaign along with another education reformer, super conservative James Windham. Windham serves alongside Michael Williams and Rod Paige on the board of the group Texas Aspires, a staunch defender of STAAR and advocate for pro-charter, anti-teacher policies in state politics. Read Windham bash teachers, the NAACP and the rights of LGBTQ kids in his own words here.
Also, notable donations to Gretchen are lawyers from Bracewell LLP, a major Houston law firm that does business with Houston ISD, Sara Morgan, a democratic super donor and wife of oil magnate William Morgan, and Garnet Coleman, a State Representative to whom Gretchen’s husband once served as Chief of Staff.
Another interesting connection... Paula Arnold serves as Anne Sung’s campaign treasurer while Rod Paige (Arnold's colleague at CRSS) served as campaign treasurer for her opponent, John Luman, last year.
High-stakes test-based education reform is a small world.
Will you approve plans that focus poor kids on tests and punishes the teachers that spend their days educating them while the HISD PR machine highlights the amazing things happening in a just a fraction of the district's “good” schools?
And when the TEA pushes you to do things you know aren’t right for kids — things you know furthers inequity in this district, will you fight? Will you put your the weight of your positions and some of the millions this board spends on lawyers each year into this battle?
I’ve read all 34 of the elementary school improvement plans. In 23,066 words, the word data is used 349 times. The word art is used just twice. The word music, not once.
The school chiefs know every principal and teacher that didn’t hit their goal on the last snapshot but can’t tell you if they’re complying with this district’s new mandate on physical education. These improvement plans and the measures of success you give these administrators matter.
Two questions: What are your values? And will you fight?Read More