Neither legislative chamber’s base budget appropriates funds for any new textbooks. The primary concern in the short term is funding for science materials that reflect the 2009 curriculum changes made by the State Board of Education. Those changes are significant, according to Patsy McGee, a Beaumont school district science supervisor and past president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas.
The new, more rigorous testing regimen — the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness system — emphasizes college readiness and will count toward students’ graduation requirements.
Twelve mandatory exams for high schoolers will be phased in over the next four years; the class of 2015 will be the first to complete the full STAAR program.
Last fall, the State Board of Education, recognizing the likelihood of a state revenue shortfall, asked the Legislature for supplemental science materials that would reflect the curriculum changes and be available online only. By going the digital route, the price tag for the materials dropped from $347 million to $60 million.
In total, state Education Commissioner Robert Scott is asking for about $520 million in updated instructional materials for the fall, for the online science materials and for new language arts materials based on standards also recently altered.
The Texas Education Agency intends to press on with the new testing, textbooks or not, and, barring action from the Legislature, is required by law to do just that.
Since the possibility of high-stakes testing without updated instructional materials became real, Scott has repeatedly warned that students might have legal grounds to sue districts or the state for failing to provide them with an opportunity to learn the subject matter on which testing is based.
At a board meeting in September, Scott said providing the materials is “an absolute moral and legal imperative.”
Seems to me there are only two possible choices here. The Lege can suck it up, find the money, and buy the textbooks and supplemental materials needed for the new STAAR tests (for which incoming high school freshmen this fall will be responsible), or admit that they’re incapable of doing so and push back the start date on STAAR until they can do it. The latter would be a stark admission that student performance will be affected by the budget cuts, so I take Sen. Florence Shapiro, who is quoted in the story saying getting this funded is a high priority for her, at her word. How they’re going to square that with all of the swaggering “no new revenue” talk, I have no idea. Reality is a harsh mistress.