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April 20, 2006     (512) 463-0300

SHAPIRO LAYS OUT SCHOOL REFORM PLAN

Senators Florence Shapiro and Royce West discuss the education reforms set forth in Senate Bill 1.

The Senate Education Committee today considered a plan that would reform the public education system in Texas. Senate Bill 1, by committee Chair Florence Shapiro, includes a teacher pay raise, performance incentive allotments, and enhanced transparency and accountability measures. This bill contains many of the provisions in previous reform plans introduced in the Senate during the last few regular and special sessions.

When the Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's property tax system was unconstitutional, they cautioned lawmakers that the state's public schools were drifting toward inadequacy. Shapiro said the Court mentioned a number of areas where the state could face future legal challenges, including teacher attrition, college readiness and high drop-out rates. She added that she crafted that bill with the intention of addressing those concerns before they landed the state back in court. "I believe that this bill will help us in an avoidance, by January, of the possibility of having the Supreme Court come back and say, you didnít meet our standards, you didnít do what we told you to do, we warned you, and we want you to make some changes," said Shapiro.

SB 1 includes provisions for increasing teacher pay in two ways. First, it would give every teacher in the state a $2,000 annual pay raise, part of which could be set aside for a health care allotment. Second, teachers who teach at hard-to-staff schools, or in needed subjects or who demonstrate excellence in the classroom, could receive an incentive bonus.

Shapiro's plan would increase transparency and accountability and inter-school communication through the creation of a database, which would show how schools budget money and how schools perform academically. The bill would also create a public clearinghouse website for successful education strategies at Texas schools that would encourage other schools to adopt those methods.

Education Committee Chair Florence Shapiro lays out her proposal for reforming the Texas public school system.

Accountability would also be increased through a system of evaluation and sanctions for underperforming schools. Schools that perform poorly for two years in a row could be placed under outside management and could have administrators and poor teachers reassigned to other districts or positions. The bill would also create a Principal Leadership Program to help train new and under-performing administrators.

Another major concern for the state, said Shapiro, is the number of Texas high-school graduates who perform poorly once they get to college. " The rate of students meeting college preparedness standards is very low. That statistic bears out tremendously when you look at how many young people are graduating high school, going off to college - a third of them are taking remedial courses," she said. "We've got to do something in that regard." To that end, SB 1 would require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the State Board of Education to align high school and college curriculum, so that high school students are being trained to succeed in college. The bill would also require that students take at least four years in all the recommended high school subjects as well as take one research writing course.

Elements of this bill have been filed in the House, indicating, said Shapiro, that the Legislature is ready to move forward on education reform. While the governor's call may focus on property tax reform, Shapiro said she thinks lawmakers can do much in this special session to directly improve the state of Texas public schools through the reforms she introduced in SB 1. "My hope is that with this impending crisis of property tax reduction and property tax considerations that we will make a difference in the classroom, and this, in my opinion is the best way to do that," she said.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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