Groups Decry “Home-Rule” Bill That Eliminates Class Size, Curriculum, All Education Standards

Groups Decry “Home-Rule” Bill That Eliminates Class Size, Curriculum, All Education Standards


April 28, 2003

Austin, TX Student learning would suffer under proposed rollbacks of education standards, said a coalition of fifteen public interest groups on Monday.

“While public school finance and the $1.4 billion education cuts are grabbing headlines, the biggest threat to public schools is making a stealth advance through the legislature,” said Samantha Smoot, Executive Director of the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors public education issues. “House Bill 859 would eliminate virtually all state education standards and wipe out decades of academic progress in one fell swoop.”

Scheduled for a vote in the Texas House on Monday, House Bill 859 would allow any Texas school district to convert itself to “home-rule” and thus be exempt from virtually all state education standards, including class size, curriculum, teacher certification and training, minimum teacher qualifications, parental rights, dropout prevention, after-school programs, remedial and accelerated instruction, educator rights and benefits, school day length, school year length, assessment of students with disabilities, and even some anti-discrimination and religious freedom provisions.

“We’re here to take a stand against House Bill 859, one of the most wide-reaching and potentially devastating education initiatives considered by the legislature this session,” said Smoot, flanked by representatives of the PTA, American Association of University Women, Baptist General Convention of Texas, LULAC, League of Women Voters, MALDEF, National Council of La Raza, William Velasquez Institute, and all four educator groups.

“Between the November elections and the critical days of the legislative session, who hijacked the education agenda?” asked Donna New Haschke, President of the Texas State Teachers’ Association. “When they were running for office, every candidate promised to support teachers and stand up for our children’s education. Instead, this legislative session has been marked by an unprecedented attack on classroom teachers and the higher standards that have led to dramatic improvements in our public schools over the last decade.”

Hector Ortiz of the William Velasquez Institute said, “This bill is not about standards, it’s about double standards.”

“Instead of rolling back the very education standards that schools have worked hard to raise and reach, we should push ahead and strive to meet those goals at every school across Texas,” said Smoot. “We call on lawmakers to stand up for kids and public schools by opposing this drastic initiative.”