Community colleges pushed to become diploma mills

June 28, 2010

Zeno at Halfway There describes a terrible situation in California community colleges — not unlike the situation Texas high schools face.  Don’t tell Texas Republicans, they’ll want to adopt it for community colleges, too.

State senator Carol Liu is the author of SB 1143, a measure which would somehow incorporate course completion rates in the formula for computing state funding for community colleges. Think about that for a moment. (Try giving it more thought than our legislators do.) Colleges that pass more students through their curriculum will get more funding. Colleges that pass fewer will get less. At first blush, that might seem reasonable.

Liu forgot, however, to include any quality standards in her bill. Schools that are willing to become diploma mills will prosper under her dollars for scholars program. The pressure to lower standards will be intense.


Which party encourages education in Texas?

June 28, 2010

You have the tools to compare the party platforms and determine for yourself which part supports education in Texas — I mean, really supports education, as opposed to using Doublespeak to profess support while angling to get a shiv in the back of education.

You can look at the 2010 Texas Republican Party Platform here.  There are brief mentions of education in other sections, but you’ll find education starting on page 12.  Texas Democrats put education up front, on page 2 (unofficial version, but the emphasis won’t change).

Education sections of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform appear immediately previous to this post, in eleven sections.

Which party is more favorable to educating our children well?


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Diversity

June 28, 2010

This post is tenth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

DIVERSITY

Texas Democrats support innovative approaches to ensure diversity in every Texas institution of higher education. We condemn intolerance on Texas campuses and encourage universities to develop and offer culturally diverse curricula, student activities, and student recruitment policies that promote understanding, respect and acceptance.


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Community Colleges

June 28, 2010

This post is tenth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES

Democrats recognize and support the essential role of Texas community colleges, where almost 60% of Texas post-secondary students are enrolled. By combining affordability, high quality and responsiveness to community needs, these institutions provide an education to those who would be otherwise excluded.

Republicans have drastically reduced funding for community colleges and that burden has been shifted onto students, their families and property taxpayers. A significant funding increase would be needed just to restore Republican cuts to the 2002-3 state funding level, without adjusting for inflation. Not only do the Governor and Republican politicians again want to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs for employees’ group insurance onto students and local property taxpayers, they have already cut funding by 5% this year. And they are asking for an additional 10% in cuts to Republican budgets that currently allow only 4% of students eligible for Texas Equal Opportunity Grants to receive grants designated for community college students. To maintain community colleges’ role in providing lifelong education, we endorse:

  • full formula funding of the cost of instruction and of the growth in student enrollments;
  • fully state-funded full time employee group health insurance and proportional health benefits for adjunct instructors;
  • funding for new campuses and program expansions, especially in critical need programs, sufficient to meet Closing the Gaps goals;
  • rolling back tuition and fees that have increased over 50% under Republican control;
  • sufficient financial aid to cover 260,000 community college students who are eligible for grant assistance but receive none because state funding is inadequate; and
  • elimination of financial aid rules that penalize students who transfer to universities from community colleges.

To prevent further erosion of community colleges’ ability to serve their communities, Texas Democrats oppose:

  • proposals for “proportionality” that would shift group insurance costs onto students and property taxpayers;
  • shifting the basis of formula funding away from actual costs; and
  • “incentive programs that would discriminate against colleges and programs serving disadvantaged and non-traditional students or against non-degree skill-building and retraining programs.

2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Higher Education

June 28, 2010

This post is ninth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Texas Democrats believe all Texans should have the opportunity and be encouraged to pursue affordable higher education at public universities, community colleges, and technical schools.  Republican “tuition deregulation” – cleverly named to imply an easing of burdens – has dramatically increased the financial burden and forced many students from middle income families to take on substantial debt to avoid being priced out of college. Tuition policies threaten our ability to meet state “Closing the Gaps” goals essential to our economic future. To offer affordable access to higher education, we support:

  • restoration of formula contact hour funding to the level prior to Republican cuts, adjusted for inflation and student growth;
  • legislative rollback of tuition and fees to affordable levels to reflect the restored funding;
  • federal income tax credits for college tuition;
  • full funding of TEXAS Grants and reforming and reopening the mismanaged state Prepaid Tuition Program, to provide higher education to more Texans without excessive debt burden;
  • legislation to reduce the inordinately high costs of college textbooks, technical manuals and other instructional materials;
  • adequate compensation, security, professional status, and benefits for all faculty and fair market wages for college employees;
  • weapon-free institutes of higher education;
  • higher education research funding to spur economic development, including sufficient funding to locate a Tier 1 research and teaching university in every region of the state;
  • collaborative public/higher education partnerships from pre-K-16 to enhance learning and teacher preparation;
  • enhanced, equitable funding for Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University and for higher education in South Texas and all border communities;
  • efforts to place a voting student regent on the appointed governing board of each state supported four-year institution of higher education; and
  • the continuation of the Texas DREAM Act.

2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Making Our Schools Safe Havens for Learning

June 28, 2010

This post is eighth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

MAKING OUR SCHOOLS SAFE HAVENS FOR LEARNING

Texas Democrats believe students, teachers and other school personnel should be safe from acts of violence, and students must be protected from bullying. School campuses and functions must be weapon-free and drug-free. We support swift and fair enforcement of disciplinary standards. Teachers deserve support when they exercise their right to remove a disruptive student from class.

Students referred to disciplinary alternative education programs should continue to receive strong academic instruction. When a student’s misconduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary placement, the state should make sure that the disciplinary setting – whether a school district’s own disciplinary alternative program or a county’s juvenile-justice alternative education program – offers a full array of educational and social/behavioral services to help that student get back on track. School districts should be discouraged from indiscriminately placing students in disciplinary alternative education programs for trivial misconduct.

We support the Dignity for All Students Act to guarantee safety for all students.


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Reform of the Unbalanced State Board of Education

June 28, 2010

This post is seventh in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

Generally I’ll not comment on these planks just yet, but I must say that I take delight in the perhaps unintentional commentary offered in the title of this plank.  I suspect the intent was to point to the bias of the State Board of Education, an imbalance of political views, and not to the sanity of the board.  But, I could be wrong — the title may be just an official Democratic labeling of the Board’s actions as unbalanced behavior.

REFORM OF THE UNBALANCED STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

The right-wing Republican extremists who have dominated the State Board of Education have made a laughingstock of our state’s process for developing and implementing school curriculum standards that determine what our students learn. The damage they have done is no laughing matter. In rewriting the curriculum for social studies, English language arts, and science, they repeatedly have dismissed the sound advice of professional educators. Personal ideology, not high academic standards, has guided their work. Their skewed vision slights the contributions of racial and ethnic minorities. Their slanted versions of American history and of science mislead students and violate the separation of church and state. They use loaded language to favor the roles of right-wing organizations and activists. Led by a Rick Perry appointee as chair, this State Board of Education wants to indoctrinate, not educate, the schoolchildren of Texas. Their actions are unlikely to encourage a company to relocate and bring jobs to Texas. Any substantive changes to curriculum must be reviewed by non-partisan experts, and that review must be made public prior to any changes in curriculum by the State Board.

Texas Democrats will realign the State Board of Education with mainstream Texas values, will realign the state curriculum with objective reality and the facts of history and science, and will insist on the exercise of sober fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund, exposing and prohibiting conflicts of interest.


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Effective Teachers for Every Student

June 28, 2010

This post is sixth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

EFFECTIVE TEACHERS FOR EVERY STUDENT

The most important factor in student success is having qualified teachers in our classrooms. Texas has a serious teacher shortage. Teacher pay and benefits are not competitive with private sector pay for occupations requiring comparable knowledge and skills. To recruit and retain our best to teach, Texas Democrats advocate the following:

  • raise teacher and support staff pay to levels exceeding the national average;
  • extend quality state funded health insurance to all education employees;
  • respect and safeguard the rights and benefits of education employees;
  • guarantee that every class has a teacher certified to teach that subject;
  • recruit and train teachers who reflect the state’s diversity;
  • provide a mentor (a master teacher) for every novice teacher;
  • base teacher pay and evaluations on multiple measures that give a full, rounded picture of student and teacher accomplishment, and oppose Republican plans to use narrow test results instead;
  • provide retired teachers a cost-of-living increase to restore their pensions’ purchasing power, which has eroded more than 20 percent under Rick Perry and the Republicans since the last increase in 2001;
  • repeal the federal government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions that unfairly reduce Social Security benefits for educational retirees and other public employees; and
  • provide tuition credits and financial assistance for college students who become certified public school teachers and teach for a specified period of time in public schools.

2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Solving the Dropout Crisis

June 28, 2010

This post is fifth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

SOLVING THE DROPOUT CRISIS

Rick Perry may be willing to write off more than a fourth of the school age children in Texas, but Texans can’t afford to pay the price for Perry’s complacency in the face of the dropout crisis. Solving the dropout crisis is a priority for Texas Democrats because it threatens the economic well-being of all Texans, and failure to solve the dropout crisis could write off economic progress for an entire generation. Texas already has more low-wage and minimum wage workers than any other state, and in Texas dropouts earn $7,000 less per year than high school graduates. According to the state demographer, if these trends persist, by 2040, the average annual Texas household income will be $6,500 less than in the year 2000, at a cost to Texas of over $300 billion per year in lost income.

More than one-fourth of Texas high school students fail to graduate on time. For African American and Hispanic students, the dropout rate is more than one-third. Out of all 50 states, Texas has the highest percentage of adults who have not completed high school. However, in response to the Governor’s call for across-the-board budget cuts to address an $18 billion state budget shortfall, his Texas Education Agency recommended cutting programs that have helped keep kids in school and off the street. The economic consequences of such shortsighted policies are stark. Rick Perry’s refusal to address this dropout crisis is making Texas poorer, less educated, and less competitive.

Proper funding of all our schools to meet the needs of students who are most at risk of dropping out is essential. Specific solutions include:

  • school-community collaboration that brings educational and social services together under one roof to help at-risk students and their families;
  • expanded access to early childhood education, targeting at-risk students;
  • dual-credit and early-college programs that draw at-risk students into college and career paths while still in high school;
  • equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers, to change current practices that too often match the most at-risk students with the least experienced and least prepared teachers;
  • enforce daytime curfew laws to reduce truancy;
  • providing access to affordable programs for adults who have dropped out of the education process.

  • 2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Excellent Schools for Every Student

    June 28, 2010

    This post is fourth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

    This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

    EXCELLENT SCHOOLS FOR EVERY STUDENT

    To make public education our highest priority, we believe the state should:

    • provide universal access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten;
    • provide universally accessible after school programs for grades 1-12;
    • provide free, accurate and updated instructional materials aligned to educationally appropriate, non-ideological state curriculum standards and tests;
    • provide free computer and internet access, as well as digital instructional materials;
    • provide early intervention programs to ensure every child performs at grade level in English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science;
    • ensure that students with disabilities receive an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, including access to the full range of services and supports called for in their individual education plans;
    • provide appropriate career and technical education programs;
    • reject efforts to destroy bilingual education;
    • promote multi-language instruction, beginning in elementary school, to make all students fluent in English and at least one other language;
    • replace high-stakes tests, used to punish students and schools, with multiple measures that restore the original intent of the state assessment system–improving instruction to help students think critically, be creative and succeed;
    • end inappropriate testing of students with disabilities whose individual education plans call for alternative assessments of their educational progress;
    • enforce and extend class size limits to allow every student to receive necessary individualized attention;
    • support Title IX protections for gender equity in public education institutions;
    • ensure that every school has a fully funded library that meets state requirements;
    • provide environmental education programs for children and adults; and
    • oppose private school vouchers.

    2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Public Education Funding

    June 28, 2010

    This post is third in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

    This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

    PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING

    Texas Democrats believe:

    • the state should establish a 100% equitable school finance system with sufficient state revenue to allow every district to offer an exemplary program;
    • the state should equitably reduce reliance on “Robin Hood” recapture;
    • state funding formulas should fully reflect all student and district cost differences and the impact of inflation and state mandates;
    • Texas should maintain or extend the 22-1 class size limits and expand access to prekindergarten and kindergarten programs; and
    • the federal government should fully fund all federal education mandates and the Elementary and [Secondary] Education Act.

    Republicans have shortchanged education funding every session they have controlled the Texas Legislature. After cutting billions from public education in 2003, the 2006 Republican school funding plan froze per pupil funding, leaving local districts faced with increasing costs for fuel, utilities, insurance and personnel with little new state money. To make matters worse, that same plan placed stringent limits on local ability to make up for the state’s failures.

    In 2009, Republicans hypocritically supplanted state support for our schools with the very federal “stimulus” aid they publicly condemned after state revenues plunged because of the Republican-caused recession and the structural state budget deficit they created. They reduced state funding for our schools by over $3 billion. Because our student population continues to grow, the combined reduction in state revenue per student was nearly 13%.

    Most Texans support our public schools, yet now Republicans want to cut even more from education and also want to siphon off limited public education funds for inequitable, unaccountable voucher and privatization schemes. Texas Democrats believe these attempts to destroy our public schools must be stopped.


    2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Education (preface)

    June 28, 2010

    This post is second in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

    This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

    EDUCATION

    Texas Democrats strongly support our Constitution’s recognition that a free, quality public education is “essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people.” Texas Democrats believe a world class education system is a moral imperative and an economic necessity that requires parents, educators and community leaders to work together to provide our children the skills needed to compete and succeed in a global economy.

    Texas Democrats believe all children should be able to attend a safe, secure school and have access to an exemplary educational program that values and encourages critical thinking and creativity, not the “drill and kill” teach-to-the-test policy Republicans have forced on students and teachers. To fulfill this commitment, Texas Democrats continue leading the fight to improve student achievement, lower dropout rates, and attract and retain well-qualified teachers.

    Democrats also believe it is essential that all Texans have access to affordable, quality higher education and career education programs, with a renewed emphasis on the importance of a full four year college education, and particular attention to science, technology and engineering.


    2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Preamble

    June 28, 2010

    Ahead of the Texas Democratic Party’s official posting of the platform, a blog called Who’s Playin’ has a .pdf of the working copy used by delegates last Saturday at the Convention.  There were not a lot of changes, and nothing of substance was changed in the education parts of the platform.

    So, for the next several posts, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub presents you the unofficial Preamble and education planks of the Texas Democratic Party Platform 2010.  The Preamble includes mentions of general philosophy of Texas Democrats regarding education.

    2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform

    Report of the Permanent Committee on Platform

    Preamble

    “The Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common heritage – by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future.”
    — John F. Kennedy, from a speech he was to deliver in Austin on November 22, 1963

    Texas Democrats believe government can be as good as the people. We have faith that democracy, built on the sacred values of family, freedom and fairness, can afford every Texan, without exception, the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential.

    We believe democratic government exists to achieve as a community, state, and nation what we cannot achieve as individuals; and that it must not serve only a powerful few.

    We believe every Texan has inalienable rights that even a majority may not take away
    …the right to vote
    …the right to fair and open participation and representation in the democratic process
    …the right to privacy.

    We believe in freedom
    …from government interference in our private lives and personal decisions
    …to exercise civil and human rights
    …of religion and individual conscience.

    We believe in equal opportunity for all Texans
    …to receive a quality public education, from childhood through college
    …to have access to affordable, comprehensive health care
    …to find a good job with dignity
    …to buy or rent a good home in a safe community
    …to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

    We believe a growing economy should benefit all Texans
    …that the people who work in a business are as important as those who invest in it
    …that every person should be paid a living wage
    …that good business offers a fair deal for customers
    …that regulation of unfair practices and rates is necessary
    …that the burden of taxes should be fairly distributed
    …that government policy should not favor corporations that seek offshore tax shelters, exploit workers, pollute our environment, or spend corporate money to influence elections;

    We believe that our lives, homes, communities and country are made secure
    …by appropriately staffed and trained law enforcement and emergency agencies
    …by retirement and pension security
    …by encouraging job security where it is possible and providing appropriate assistance and re-training when it is not
    …by the preservation of our precious natural resources and quality of life
    …by compassionate policy that offers a safety net for those most vulnerable and in need.

    We believe America is made stronger by the men and women who put their lives on the line when it is necessary to engage our military to secure our nation.

    We believe America is made more secure by competent diplomatic leadership that uses the moral, ethical, economic assets of a powerful, free nation to avoid unnecessary military conflict.

    We believe in the benefits derived from the individual strengths of our diverse population. We honor “family values” through policies that value all our families.

    We believe an honest, ethical state government that serves the public interest, and not the special interests, will help all Texans realize economic and personal security.

    We believe many challenges require national solutions, but talented and resourceful Texans, blessed with opportunities provided by agriculture, “old” and “new” energy sources, renowned medical and research institutions and high tech industries, should not need federal action to make progress in providing quality education, affordable health care, a clean environment, a strong economy and good jobs.

    Based on our belief in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, we recommend specific policy goals to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

    Education planks from the platform immediately follow the Preamble, a salute to the importance Democrats attach to education and students.  Those planks follow in successive posts.

    All of the education sections of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform appear here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub , in eleven sections, listed in reverse chronological order of posting:

    Please comment.


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