We, all of us, have made great progress in the year since we first organized Texas Kids Can’t Wait! In fact, we have exceeded our own expectations.
We have held numerous public forums to inform people all over the state about the inadequacies and inequities in Texas school funding, as well as the threats of privatization. We have attended conferences and meetings of as many groups as possible to tell our story. In doing so we have reached thousands of Texans, who have, in turn, spread the word to their family and friends.
We’ve made the news! We appreciate all the exposure that the Waco Tribune-Herald has given us, as well as numerous other newspapers, blogs, and websites. All have helped us inform parents and other voters about these important issues affecting our kids. Oh! We have also been interviewed by a group making a documentary film on Texas School Finance. We will let you know when it will come out.
We have worked in cooperation with several other statewide organizations on legislative issues to share information, use all our resources to inform our members, and to communicate with legislators.
We have greatly expanded our exposure on social media–this webpage, our Facebook page, and on Twitter. Additionally, one of our members generously funded our purchase of email services from Constant Contact so that we can better communicate using that tool. All these efforts have made us stronger and expanded our reach. One Facebook post, for example, reached over 46,000 readers!!!
We worked very hard, long days, many trips to Austin, during the legislative session. We wrote emails, made phone calls, and conducted personal visits with a number of legislators. All the groups working together made several major accomplishments: (1) increased funding for public education, although failing to persuade the legislature to restore all that was cut in 2011 and going forward. (2) supported the passage of HB 5 which greatly reduces the amount of testing at the high school level, changed graduation plans, and supports high quality career and technical education. We also supported the bill to reduce testing at the elementary and middle school levels, unanimously passed by both Houses, but vetoed by Gov. Perry. (3) worked in coalition with other groups to kill most of the privatization bills that were supported strongly by Sen. Dan Patrick, who is now a candidate for Lt. Gov. He wanted the parent trigger. He wanted the Achievement District established that would have closed over 500 Texas schools and converted them to charters. He wanted vouchers for special education students (which would then deny them the rights at the state and federal levels so long in coming). He wanted Taxpayer Savings Grants, which were tax incentives for businesses to fund vouchers to any private school with no accountability for the use of public money. And on and on. (4) Although the charter bill passed, we, working with others, were able to amend out some of its worst features, such as forcing districts to sell buildings to charters for $1. (5) Although the bill to expand online courses passed, we again were able to get some amendments made that make it a little less horrible.
So, what now? Three major projects are already launched.
We have founded a new subgroup to Texas Kids Can’t Wait, called the Texas Charter School Study Group. We’ve had one meeting, and we will meet again soon to do some research; to develop political strategies; to develop communication strategies; to hold charters accountable; to provide information to legislators, SBOE members, and the general public; etc. The floodgates of charters have been opened, and there are proposed 57 new charters on the agenda for approval in September. We have to stop this stealth movement toward privatization.
We are working with some volunteers to produce a document that reports the votes of legislators on key bills that were considered during the 83rd Legislative Session. Stay tuned.
We are also working with some friends from Save Texas Schools DFW to develop some YouTube videos featuring kids’ reflections on their public schools.
We encourage all our members and friends to let us know how you would like to be more engaged. There are dozens of ways in which you can help. If you want to help and don’t know what to suggest, let us know that too.
A reminder: We strongly believe in being bipartisan! We strongly believe that to solve the problems we have will take the commitment of people on both sides of the aisle, plus all those who identify as Independents. Some continue to believe we are just supportive of Democrats, but we urge everyone to see that some of the very worst proponents of privatization are Democrats, along with some bad Republicans. We are just as opposed to the policies promoted by Arne Duncan and Rahm Emanuel, as we are to those of Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Jindal, and so forth. We also are big fans of Speaker Joe Straus and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, for example, for their work to keep vouchers off the floor of the House, and they are both Republicans.
Bonnie Lesley, Co-Founder, Texas Kids Can’t Wait