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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
January 2, 2013     Hays Free Press
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January 2, 2013

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Hays Free Press January 2, 2013 aS ree ress Page 3D School finance trial 00ill make mark on Texas 83rd legislature BY MORGAN SMITH The Texas Tribune A final decision in the school finance trial against the state, in- volving more than two-thirds of its districts and charter schools, likely won&apos;t happen until after the lights go out in the 83rd Legisla- ture. But that doesn't mean what's happening inside of the court- room now won't have an impact on policy under the pink dome during the next six months. District Court Judge John Di- etz plans to reach his verdict quickly after the trial concludes its last few weeks early next year. That will likely be appealed by one party or another no matter what, leaving the Texas Supreme Court to weigh in sometime over the summer - and lawmakers to reconvene to address its findings sometime after that. The goals of one party in the suit, Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, an or- ganization made up of school choiceadvocates, parents, and business interests, align particu- larly with the agenda of leaders in the state Senate like Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who chairs the upper chamber's education committee. They're pursuing aggressive changes that expand the choices available to public school students in the state, increasing the number of charter schools, finding sources of public money to open up pri- vate schools, and breaking down the traditional boundary lines upon which schools have typi- cally based their enrollment. TREE attorneys are attempting to prove that the state's public ed- ucation system is fundamentally flawed because it is a monopoly, and their arguments seek many of the same solutions proposed by Dewhurst and Patrick. The testimony of state witness- es could also provide cover for lawmakers who voted for funding cuts last session - and who want to avoid restoring that money this session. Just before the trial's holiday break, the state called University of Missouri economist and expert on education spend- ing Michael Podgursky to the stand; he testified that increased spending doesn't translate to in- creases in student performance, especially when studies are ad- justed for factors like student- teacher ratios. "I don't agree with the belief that if you spend a certain amount of money, you can predict that there will be a certain level of improve- ment in student achievement," he said. "There is no evidence of a positive relationship between student performance and spend- ing by a school district." Then there is the bombshell dropped by an official from the Texas EducationAgency, which that had previously staunchly defended the rigor of the new state standard- ized tests, during the state's first day of defense. She revealed that the agency is recommending lowering the performance threshold on the new exams that students must reach to be considered college-ready. Only half of high school graduates met the standard last year. And among the ninth grade students who took the English I end-of-course exams for the first time the spring, only 3 percent - and only 17 percent who took the Algebra I exams - met the current "advanced" standard to be college-ready, which determines whether they must take a place- ment exam evaluating whether they need remediation before en- tering college. Shortly after, a coalition of busi- ness leaders reversed what had seemed an intractable position on the accountability measures originally passed by House Bill 3 in 2009. Presenting a plan that recommended letting local school districts determine how end-of- course exams factor into students' final grades, reducing the num- ber of exams they must pass to graduate and providing different ways to earn a high school diplo- ma, they said it was the result of a six-monthAong "listening tour" across the state where they heard the concerns of educators, busi- ness leaders and elected officials. Piano for Sale Hobart Cable studio piano Perfect for beginner 512-753-2700 i i i i ii TEX'A.S Call 512-268-7862 for information Texas Statewide Advertising brought to you in cooperation with Texas Press Services, Inc. Division of Texas Press Association Air Conditioning Air Conditioning r I EATI NG AND INCE 1988 I i8- , < AIR CONDITIONING, INC. $10.OO OFF ANY REPAIR (NO EXPIRATION DATEI) , We are proud to serve Buda and Kyle. 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