• By Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • January 2023 • Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D.

IDRA strives to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. As we enter the 88th Texas legislative session, IDRA is focusing on five policy priority areas to secure fair school funding, ensure excellent educational opportunities for emergent bilingual students, promote culturally-sustaining school climates that support all students, create safer schools without harmful discipline practices, and prepare all students to access and succeed in college.

Securing Fair School Funding for All Students

All students deserve to go to excellent, well-funded public schools that prepare them to access and succeed in college and beyond. But not all Texas schools have sufficient funding to provide students with the education and opportunities they deserve. State funding for public schools remains below 50% and does not account for inflation or actual costs of education. The state school funding system should provide equitable education to students, including students of color, students from families with limited incomes, and students who require additional programs, supports and services.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Protect local school district autonomy to control their maintenance and operation (M&O) tax rates without disparate tax rate compression by the state;
  • Invest in the basic allotment to raise per pupil funding for all students, including by adjusting for inflation;
  • Make meaningful investments in teacher recruitment, preparation and retention to address workforce shortages, especially in high-need fields, such as bilingual education, special education and STEM; and
  • Keep public dollars in public schools by opposing vouchers and similar programs that use public funds for private purposes.

Ensure Excellent Educational Opportunities for Emergent Bilingual Students

Emergent bilingual students have the right to excellent schools that support bilingualism and biliteracy in a student’s home language and in English. Strong programs for emergent bilingual students are well-funded, have high-quality teachers, and accurately track students’ progress and needs. But certified bilingual education teachers are in short supply and have been for over 30 years.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Increase the number of quality, certified bilingual education teachers through preparation program support, strengthened teacher retention strategies and higher teacher pay;
  • Adopt the State Seal of Biliteracy with pathways from elementary through high school;
  • Raise the bilingual education funding weight and expenditures minimum to support and expand quality bilingual education educators, programs and instructional materials;
  • Ensure students who speak languages other than English, and their families, have access to quality public education without barriers regardless of citizenship.

Promote Culturally-Sustaining Schools that Support All Students

All students deserve to learn in culturally-sustaining school environments that affirm their racial, ethnic, gender and other identities. Culturally-sustaining schools create positive, safe and supportive school climates for all students to receive high-quality educational opportunities to succeed. Recent classroom censorship policies have made schools less safe and supportive for students, especially for those who are Black, Latino and identify as LGBTQ+.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Promote high-quality curriculum, instructional materials and learning opportunities that are inclusive of diverse historical figures, perspectives and events, such as ethnic studies;
  • Repeal harmful censorship laws that limit quality teaching and learning;
  • Allow students to earn course credit and extra credit for civic engagement, leadership and policy opportunities;
  • Support opportunities for authentic and meaningful school-family engagement; and
  • Strengthen laws designed to prevent and remedy identity-based bullying and harassment.

Create Safer Schools Without Harmful Discipline

All students deserve safe and welcoming schools that do not use harmful discipline and school police to punish young people. To achieve this, schools must be able to invest in the people and programs that build strong campus climates and foster the relationships that keep everyone safe.

See infographic:
Data Snacks on IDRA’s Policy
Priorities for 2023

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Eliminate school-based policing;
  • Increase school-based mental health resources, including counseling and social work professionals;
  • Ban physical abuse of students through corporal punishment in schools;
  • Invest in effective alternatives to exclusionary discipline that address root causes of challenging behavior;
  • Train teachers and school employees in effective classroom management techniques, including on how to recognize and intervene in instances of bullying and harassment; and
  • Collect and assess comprehensive data to better identify and address disparate disciplinary outcomes.

Prepare All Students to Succeed in College

All students deserve a high-quality education that prepares them for college and lifelong success. Schools have a responsibility to prepare all students to succeed in college, but many students are not meeting readiness benchmarks. Texas’ new strategic plan for higher education and workforce goals depends on all students having accessible and affordable college readiness opportunities.

IDRA Policy Recommendations

  • Expand early college advising for all students starting in middle school, especially for historically marginalized Black, Latino and emergent bilingual students;
  • Invest in dual credit so that all students have access without financial barriers to advanced coursework that transfers to their colleges of choice;
  • Invest in state scholarship and financial aid programs that make college affordable for students to access; and
  • Protect tuition equity for Texas high school graduates to be eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of citizenship.

Stay up to date with IDRA’s Texas legislative activity, events and news by subscribing to our Texas eNews Policy Updates (www.idra.org).

Chloe Latham Sikes, Ph.D., is IDRA’s deputy director of policy. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at chloe.sikes@idra.org.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]