Some actual policy from Greg Abbott.
In the 27-page, footnoted report that accompanied the press conference, he proposed to “create a swift, automatic process under which the very worst schools would be removed from the control of their local school districts each year” and instead run through the Texas Achievement School District. That district’s superintendent, appointed by the head of the Texas Education Agency, would have power to make radical changes to the schools, including the ability to fire personnel or turn the school over to a charter-school operator.
In New Orleans’ similar Recovery School District, the campaign noted, 60 percent of the schools are no longer rated academically unacceptable, and graduation rates and college readiness are climbing.
Under Abbott’s proposal, Texas would limit its recovery school district to elementary schools – an unusual step that would allow the district “to focus on students during the early phase of education when a child’s foundation for learning is first laid.”
Mike Feinberg, one of the founders of the KIPP charter-school chain, praised the Achievement School District concept.
“We’ve got to do something with schools that fail year after year,” he said. “It’s insanity for the state to keep wagging its finger, saying, ‘I mean it! One more year!’ That’s the worst way thing that a parent can do with a child. So why would we have that as state policy with schools?”
Abbott also argued that schools that are not failing need more autonomy.
“The state should set high standards, provide tools for success, then get out of the way,” he said at the press conference. “Our public education system is too centralized, with too many one-size-fits-all solutions being pushed down from the top.”
You have to admire a policy that calls for more autonomy on one hand and state takeovers of school districts on the other. Most people would pop the clutch shifting that abruptly, but Greg Abbott, he’s a pro. There may be some merit to the Texas Achievement School District idea, and the politics of it are complicated, but suffice it to say I’m skeptical. Of course, the 5.4 billion pound elephant in the room is Abbott’s lack of any mention of funding for schools. I can’t blame him for not wanting to talk about it, since he continues to defend the massive cuts from the 2011 session, especially in a time when the state coffers are overflowing. Must have been tough for him to pick a location to make his announcement, since so many districts are suing the state, as they did just a few years ago. Not surprising that he stuck close to themes that are comfortable to him.