Senate passes so-called education reform bills

Today, the Senate passed SB 619, 621-623, 709, and 710—all part of the so-called education reform package. The bills passed on party-line votes with SB 619 barely squeaking by.  The bills have been referred to the House Education Committee. Only SB 624—mandating schools of choice—is left after tie bars to the bill were broken.

Despite testimony and research showing cyber schools are not an effective alternative to traditional schools, SB 619 removes all limitations on cyber schools. Democrats offered five amendments—one to limit the amount of state aid a cyber school student would receive to 50 percent; another to require a cyber school website that included management and third-party vendor contracts; and another to make the student/teacher ratio be equivalent to that of public schools—but all of them failed. Sen. Hoon-Young Hopgood (D-Taylor) chastised the Senate for “putting on the blinders” about the effectiveness of cyber schools.

SB 621—a back-door voucher scheme—allows private and home-schooled students to take elective courses in any private, charter or public school in their ISD district.

SB 622, 623, 709 and 710—which expands dual enrollment—passed after it was amended to limit the number of community college courses a student could take.  Through their junior year in high school, students can only take two community college classes, but seniors can take as many as four courses in their last year of high school. Private school students who receive state aid for college classes are included in these bills.

MEA has opposed these bills because none of them are about real education reform. They are about the destruction of public education through voucher schemes and selling out to private, for-profit companies. The Senate has provided another reason why your political involvement is so crucial. Lawmakers bent on putting corporate interests first while cutting education need to go. It’s your voice and your vote that will make it happen.