At the Texas Capitol in 2001, the Intercultural Development Research Association convened a group of organizations and individuals for the founding event of the Texas Latino Education Coalition.
TLEC’s mission is to improve public education for Latino children, which will impact the quality of education for all children, focusing specifically on fair funding, teaching quality, school holding power, and college access and success. It is a collaborative of organizations and individuals who advocate the rights of Latinos at the local, state and national levels.
Representing thousands of Texans, member organizations include: IDRA, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mexican American School Board Members Association, League of United Latin American Citizens, among many others.
TLEC is moving its agenda forward by creating and executing strategies that: educate the media, inform public policy at state and local levels, mobilize communities, and synthesize and disseminate information.
TLEC returned to the Capitol last month to remind policymakers of their obligation to support excellence and equity in public education.
Policy leaders stated in late July that they were looking for new ideas. So TLEC and friends held a news conference on July 28 on the steps of the Capitol to present six steps to education excellence.
Mr. Luis Figueroa of MALDEF opened the news conference by outlining TLEC’s six steps for meaningful reform:
- Keep and improve equitable funding between property rich and property poor school districts.
- Substantially fund facilities construction so that school districts can provide a nurturing and supportive learning environment for our school children.
- Keep and increase funding “weights” to meet the cost of educating school children who are English language learners, economically disadvantaged, gifted and talented, and/or disabled.
- Fund a significant pay raise for all teachers.
- Eliminate further state governance, including decoupling high-stakes testing from accountability systems. High-stakes end-of-course exams are detrimental to children and their learning.
- Give public schools a chance. Give schools the resources they need to succeed and keep the public in public education.
At the news conference, Mr. David Hinojosa of MALDEF stated that in talking about closing the achievement gap, we should also talk about “closing the opportunity gap.” This is what meaningful reform should be about. “It shouldn’t be about giving your closest friends tax cuts.”
David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Educational Fund
Mr. Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities stated: “Nothing affects families and their futures as much as public education. What the legislature has been looking at so far would be a giant step backward in equity – equity for schools, equity for students and equity for taxpayers.” Equity is the engine that has brought Texas education forward in the last 20 years, he said.
Mr. Lavine said the Supreme Court has made it clear that “every school district should have substantially equal access to equal revenue at the same tax rate.” He said the measures being considered so far would have created two classes, a privileged class with a lot of money and all the rest of us struggling. “That is not how to build a more prosperous future for all of us.”
Dr. Mary Thomas spoke on behalf of the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators, an organization of more than 3,000 parents, teachers, administrators and students. She said, “We are interested in not only closing the gap, we are interested in eliminating the gap… We demand that there be a plan put forward that provides more than lip service.”
Dr. Mary Thomas of the Texas Alliance of Black School
Ms. Diana Herrera, a parent and retired teacher in the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, told reporters: “I can’t contribute monies to campaigns for legislators – legislators whose commitment should be for all, not just for those who can afford generous contributions. I can’t compete with those who have donated for their political influence. Adequacy is what they are offering us. But that’s not enough. I want equity. I want an equitable system.”
She asked why policymakers can’t pass an equitable education plan, “one that won’t undermine every child’s education.” She continued, “When will Texas children – our future – become their priority?”
Mr. Jesse Romero, representing the Texas Association for Bilingual Education, spoke about the importance of keeping funding weights for special student populations. The weight system guarantees needed funds to schools for specific purposes. “It’s not just about education, it’s about economic development.” Yet, bilingual education, for example, is only funded at one-third the level that is needed.
Mr. Romero referred to Governor Perry’s motto that appears on his web site, “Open for Business,” and asked how we can be open for business if we don’t educate all of our children and get everyone contributing as profitable citizens?
Ms. Anna Alicia Romero of IDRA commended the policymakers who are more and more taking stands for equitable public education in Texas. This is important, she said, because the leading proposals so far have not really been about “education reform,” but about “education erosion.”
She gave the following example: “Equitable education for all children need not come only in the form of funding but also in the form of an equitable school environment – an environment where teachers, administrators and the system as a whole values all children. High-stakes testing is education erosion.”
She said, “Instead of creating true centers of learning in all of our communities across Texas, we are creating a system where one test determines a child’s future.” She also told reporters that schools and students are set up to fail when the state demands high standards and then denies funds for schools to meet those standards. She said: “We need to invest in public education. We need to invest in the majority of kids in our state. We need to keep our public schools public.”
Mr. Rene Lara with the Texas Federation of Teachers stated: “Every child in the state of Texas deserves a quality education, and part of a quality education is having quality teachers” and school staff. The plan that advanced the farthest during these legislative sessions included cuts in insurance benefits for school personnel and a “measly” pay raise for teachers of less than $40 a month, “contrary to the claims of the legislative leadership.”
Mr. Ché López of the Southwest Workers Union in San Antonio expressed concern that the legislature’s proposals thus far would lead to further segregation, giving more funds to a few rich school districts and neglecting the majority of students. “Education should be viewed as a human right,” he said.
He also stated that when low-income “school districts don’t have enough resources, they can’t provide living wages for workers.” He said: “We have a lot of workers who have their children in schools, who pay taxes, and who vote. It’s not right for them not to have a living wage.”
Others who attended the news conference included Edgewood ISD superintendent, Mr. Richard Bocanegra; the district’s board president, Mr. Ramiro Nava; representatives of the Texas Freedom Network; and the Coalition for Public Schools.
Superintendent Bocanegra commented on the House plan that was rejected earlier this week: “We all know that bill is not the appropriate bill for the future of our students. I have been disappointed that there has been a continued effort to pass a bill like that.” If that plan had been passed, he said, we would have gone back to the same issues we were fighting for 25 years ago.
Mr. Bocanegra stated the rejection of the plan restored a little bit of faith in Austin: “I like to believe that there are legislators who will do the right thing for the right reasons. This should be about the students of Texas. The whole future of Texas rides on our students.”
Last year, TLEC established a web site to provide updated information to communities on school funding. Individuals can sign up to receive free email updates by visiting the web site at www.texans4fairfunding.org.
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2005, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the August 2005 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.]