Texas Democrats believe a world class education system is a moral imperative and an economic necessity. Every child should be provided the opportunity to succeed – not just a select few.
In order to establish a fair and equal public education system, all Texas public schools must establish and implement a curriculum that embraces national standards and expectations. No longer can we approve curriculum standards and textbooks that are in opposition to the valid and reliable views of both scientific and historical experts. So skewed has Texas curriculum become that conservative think tanks have called our social studies curriculum standards a "politicized distortion of history." Curriculum problems are not limited to sciences or social studies. Funding issues, exacerbated by partisan fighting, has led many public schools to slash both arts and music education, as well as limiting programs focused on bilingual education.
Accordingly, public schools must adopt best practices in order to raise the standard and quality of public education in every school across Texas. Accepted curriculum standards and textbook choices must be based upon the valid and reliable research of subject matter experts. Furthermore, all instructional materials must emulate the content and methodology of field experts, rather than the views or opinions of partisan extremists, and should not be subject to either censorship or spurious, partisan editing.
As the state of Texas continues to grow and evolve, we must educate our students about the various cultures and cultural practices of our fellow Americans through the development of ethnic studies classes, such as Chicano, African-American, and Indigenous peoples studies. Similarly, we must also develop and implement strong bilingual and multi-language education programs, with the goal of having all Texan students fluent in English and another language. We must also support the creativity of our students and immediately reinstate arts and music education in all Texas public schools. Providing students with an appropriate, accurate, and non-ideological education will not only lead to a well-educated, diverse student population, but it will also provide students with a foundation for success outside the academic arena.
Early Education & Family Involvement
Early childhood education establishes the basis for all future learning and should be accessible to all individuals, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or other factors. All people have the right to receive high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten education that meets established standards to ensure appropriate and effective instruction. Institutions and educators must be provided with the resources and training necessary to foster an effective learning environment.
Parental and community involvement in a child's education has been proven beneficial to both the student and the public school system. Texan schools should adopt and promote the community school model, which focuses on the integration of academics and social services. The benefits of the community school model are many: improved academics, greater family involvement, and more engaged communities. Furthermore, the role of the family in the early stages of childhood development can not be minimized. Accordingly, the state should provide support for family literacy programs that both enable and encourage parental assistance and involvement.
Texan students are victims of an inadequate educational system that penalizes minorities and underserved populations. All Texas schools should provide students with accessible, high-quality education, regardless of location, population, or economic status.
The state should immediately establish a school finance system with sufficient revenue to afford every individual accessible, high-quality education. Comprehensive reform of the Texas public school system includes not only the rejection of approaches that lead to persistent failure, but also the adoption of new strategies that improve the state of education. Institutions should be held accountable for student progress, meet established standards of educational excellence, and repeal "home rule" and "innovation" statutes that allow institutions to lower standards and simply push students through the system. Public charter schools must be held to identical standards of accountability in order to receive financial support. Above all, the $5.4 billion of public school funding that was eliminated by the Republican legislature in 2011 must be restored to fund improvements in Texas education.
All people have the right to receive high-quality, publicly-funded education from pre-kindergarten through either college or vocational programs. High-quality public schools that meet the needs of all individuals should be accessible.
However, we do not support "school choice" schemes that use public school funds to support either private or sectarian schools. Indeed, public tax money will only be used to support a system of free public schools. Furthermore, we oppose the implementation of any school voucher or tax credit program that would financially and academically harm the Texas public school system.
Individuals of all abilities are entitled to receive a high-quality education at any publicly-funded Texas educational institution. Students with disabilities are entitled receive appropriate, high-quality early, secondary, and postsecondary education and access to all services and support indicated in their individual education plans. Furthermore, we believe that all institutions should provide a safe-haven for students of all abilities, and disparities in instruction or discipline based on such factors should be eliminated.
High-Stakes Standardized Testing
Studies show that standardized testing is an ineffective metric of both student and teacher performance, discourages higher-level critical thinking and creativity, and penalizes underserved populations. The problems associated with standardized testing are so great that the Texas Education Agency has been sued over flaws in the STAAR test, and many parents have determined that the best approach to testing is to have their children "opt-out" of the experience. Despite all of these issues, however, standardized testing has become a cornerstone of Texas education.
Accordingly, high-stakes standardized tests should be replaced with alternative performance measures that address the strengths and weaknesses of students, educators, and institutions. Furthermore, the use of a statewide, test-based "Value Added Measure" as a teacher evaluation metric should be uniformly rejected, as such measures have been proven invalid. Students with disabilities must take assessments designated in individual education plans and no longer be subject to inappropriate testing.
Teacher Preparation & Certification
The success of our children is dependent upon the success of our teachers, and the success of our teachers is dependent upon the success of our educational institutions. Due to meager wages, deficient funding, and the increased emphasis on standardized testing, which is improperly used as a teacher performance metric and monopolizes class time, educational institutions suffer from low teacher retention rates and are often forced to staff unqualified individuals.
In order to provide our students with a high-quality education, we must align teacher pay with national standards to recruit superior, certified teachers that have the training and tools necessary to support all students throughout their educational journey. The state of Texas should provide financial support both for teachers and teachers' aides to obtain further education and certification for critical needs fields and developmental support by assigning mentors for novice educators.