How HB 21 could have gone very, very wrong (but didn’t)

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As with many things in life, the legislative process requires exceeding diligence to work properly, and yesterday’s house floor debate on school finance was no exception. Chairman Huberty’s House Bill 21 is a genuine attempt to fix the way the state disburses funding to public schools, but a few amendments ventured far from that goal.

Three amendments sought to hamstring (or close) public charter schools on the basis of four false premises: they don’t have the same accountability as traditional schools, their results pale in comparison to traditional schools, they receive more money than their counterparts, and they are private businesses with profit motives.

Charter schools are held to the same accountability standards, produce larger gains with low-income students (who fill the majority of their seats), receive less overall funding than traditional schools, and are public schools with non-traditional governance structures. We commend Chairman Huberty and Representatives Frank, Gervin-Hawkins, and Stickland for their efforts to bring these truths into those discussions.

One amendment was decidedly less related to the subject at hand and sought to completely demolish the state’s carefully constructed assessment and accountability system. The amendment would have made accountability a reflection exercise rather than an objective process of quality assurance. It would have also handed over the immense responsibility of test selection to districts, increasing test costs and decreasing protections for vulnerable students.

Though a substantial amount of confusion ensnared the debate around the amendment, it was effectively squashed due to the efforts of Representative Springer and Chairman Huberty. We’re grateful to them and the numerous members of the House who focused on fixing school finance instead of undoing decades of work to protect Texas students and increase their chances of success when they leave Texas schools.

In short, today we thank representatives from both sides of the aisle who saw these amendments for what they were: misguided attempts to undermine efforts to improve student outcomes. Texas students will thank y’all one day, too.

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