#TxEd Tuesday initiative started by school superintendents

82Three superintendents serving schools in Region 10, John Wink (Blue Ridge ISD), Doug Williams (Sunnyvale ISD), and Kevin Worthy (Royse City ISD), invite you to participate in the #TxEdTuesday social media campaign to promote public education, to encourage and thank legislators who support education, and to post messages of support/or opposition for bills that stand to impact students and teachers.

Here is how it works: (1.) Each Tuesday, participants will use Twitter and Facebook to engage their legislators about the great things happening in their public schools. (2.) They will also tweet and post messages of support for legislators and bills that can greatly improve public education. (3.) Don’t forget to attach pictures or images; it will increase engagement. (4.) Also, tag people, especially legislators. One goal is to let members of the House know that we support their work and their support of public education. (5.) Use the hashtag #TxEdTuesday to ensure your posts are part of the campaign.

So, here is what we need for you to do:

TELL IT – Tell your school’s story. What good news do you have to share? Also thank the legislators who support your students, families, and teachers. Post messages of support or opposition for bills that stand to impact students.

TAG IT – Tag your state representatives and senators (See the attached list). It is very important that you include the hashtag #TxEdTuesday. This will allow everyone to easily see the #TxEdTuesday tweets and retweet throughout the day.

SHARE IT – Share and retweet positive stories you see from other school districts. Let’s support each other and public education in Texas!

Prayer Luncheon, Advocacy Training and Legislative Briefing

77Join Pastors for Texas Children for a meaningful prayer luncheon for our legislators and for a legislative briefing as we advance through the 85th session of the Texas Legislature. We will be praying for our senators and representatives as they face the difficult task of making policy decisions for Texas.

Event Location: First United Methodist Church of Austin – 1201 Lavaca Street – Austin, Texas

Event Time: 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (Lunch will be provided)

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/prayer-luncheon-advocacy-training-and-legislative-briefing-tickets-31939644336

For more information contact Dr. Charles Luke at 940-768-8594 or via email at charlesluke43@gmail.com. You may also contact Rev. Charles Foster Johnson at 210-379-1066 or via email at charlie@charlesfosterjohnson.com.

Dr. Jimmie Chadwell, Supt. Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD on the value of public schools

Recently, I noticed the following in a list of financial planning questions: “Do you want to give your grandchildren the benefit of a private school education?” I was baffled. What about the benefit of a public school education? Why would there be a bias that a non-public system is superior? Now I respect a family’s choice to send their children to any school that meets their children’s needs, but this question clearly (and falsely) implies a nationwide deficiency of public schools. Every choice we make has costs and benefits. The choice to attend public schools has distinct benefits that cannot be replicated with any other options.
Sadly, as public school educators, we must consider the current perception of public schools in our nation. When the vast majority of Americans have attended and flourished through the public school system, it seems absurd that we would need to endure a constant onslaught of criticism. The climate of trust that has existed for generations is eroding because of decades of abuse and criticism coupled with reductions in support. We hear some state and national leaders define our schools as “failing” and our educators as “deficient.” Those who have never taught in a classroom or even attended a public school are pushing to privatize and outsource our work. We are described as a governmental monopoly, government schools, and even socialists.
Most educators endure these ridiculous criticisms because educators are remarkably positive and, frankly, too busy doing the real work of meeting children’s needs to fight these absurd battles. If you listen to some of the ridiculous things being spouted at these government hearings, you would consider them nonsensical or worse. I believe the time has now passed that we can simply ignore these incorrect and grievous claims.
This week I spent a few days in Austin and, after meeting with education leaders from across the state, the sad reality was reaffirmed that we are in a new day in which we (like no educators before us) will have to convince others of the advantageous qualities of our education system. We must tell our story of opportunity, and achievement, and support, and improvement, and success because there are very vocal forces working directly and blatantly against us. So what are these benefits?
  1. We take all children without judgment regardless of who they are, what their demographics are, or their previous academic performance. Not only do we admit them, we keep them. We adopt them as our own and we don’t stop educating them. No matter the circumstances, the system keeps reaching out to support and to educate.
  2. Our educators are highly qualified and highly effective. The skills that are demonstrated every day in EMS classrooms should be broadcast for the world to see. Educators are better trained and more prepared now than any other time in our country’s history.
  3. We offer a broad continuum of high-quality academic courses (college, career and technology, AP, dual credit), a myriad of athletic and fine arts activities, and other extracurricular activities to develop the interests of every student.
  4. Our facilities are designed to support learning at all levels. We pride ourselves on not having any child in a portable classroom. We plan for growth and we manage our budget to support growing and evolving instructional needs. Our schools are built to higher building standards and offer some of the safest structures in our community. From top to bottom, inside and out, our facilities and resources offer what our students need to be successful.
  5. We are stronger through our diversity. We don’t look for opportunities to exclude, we include. We embrace these differences and celebrate our uniqueness. We are not afraid. Our hearts go out to those children who struggle financially or who are learning English for the first time, but such challenges just make us work harder to help them succeed. We do not allow those characteristics to define their ability to perform at the highest levels. We don’t over focus on what restrains them, but rather on what motivates them.
  6. We represent a public trust, a promise to our citizens and future generations. The Texas State Constitution, in Article 7, Section 1, states, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”
  7. In many areas, EMS included, we define the community. When people think of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw community, they think of our schools. Our history is rich and our foundations are solid. Our accountability is not primarily to the state and feds; we are accountable first to this community and to continuing the legacy that built who we are today.
  8. Some make the ridiculous conclusion that public school students must not perform well. This is the biggest fallacy of all. Our students are incredible. They do perform at high levels and they leave EMS schools and achieve in many different areas. From senators to professional athletes to Hollywood actresses, there are famous EMS students succeeding around this world. But equally, EMS graduates have filled important positions in industry, the medical field, engineering, the military, and of course in our classrooms. Many of these graduates come back to this area to raise their children. In some schools, we have 3-4 generations of EMS families. When I shake the hand of every graduate in this school district, I am inspired by what they will achieve.
In 1785, John Adams said, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one-mile square without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.” So what happened? How do we go from a Founding Father of our great nation defining public education as our country’s cornerstone to today’s rhetoric of those who would dismantle and privatize? This has been happening for several decades and the question confounds me. While purporting the desire to help poor children, they would disrupt the very system that is saving them. And educators serve children under the ire of overt criticism, with fewer resources, and increased challenges. Why? Because we are here for the children. We are here to fulfill that public trust. Many of us feel called to this work. It is just what we do. We don’t have time to philosophize, class starts in 5 minutes.
I have to admit that I hesitated to write this, because you may consider this a very gloomy message from your superintendent. However, part of my job is to be a good steward of your trust and to not share the gravity of the very active and vocal attack on public education would be negligent. You need to know the truth and how important it is that we stand resilient as professional educators and share our message with strength and honor. Our schools may be criticized and our positions may be ridiculed, but we will not let that discourage us. Unlike the assumption by some that we fight for our schools because of a desire for self-preservation, we know in our hearts that we do this for each child we serve. After all, this is our community, these are our community public schools, and this is our legacy.
I believe the future of our democracy is dependent upon a quality public education system. Together we have the power to fight the negativity with the truth that public schools are the foundation and the answer for our future.
All the best,
Jim

School choice bill pitches savings accounts, tax credit scholarships

By Alliya Swaby – TEXAS TRIBUNE

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Sen. Larry Taylor on Monday filed Senate Bill 3, which pushes education savings accounts and tax credit scholarships to subsidize private school tuition and other education expenses.

One of the most anticipated debates of the 85th Legislative Session began taking shape Monday with the layout of a two-part Texas Senate bill that would allow for Texas taxpayer dollars to be used to help parents send their kids to private or religious schools.

Senate Bill 3, filed by Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, would establish the creation of two voucher-like programs that some parents could combine to subsidize the entire cost of private school tuition. 

The first half of the bill proposes education savings accounts, or ESAs, which give Texas parents public money to spend on private K-12 school tuition and education-related expenses, including tutoring, technology, textbooks and special education services. Five states have implemented the program so far, mostly for students who have special needs.

Read the entire article here …

For your own good, pay attention

By David Currie – Pastors for Texas Children Board Member

My favorite author, Frederick Buechner, has some memorable, thought-provoking quotes in his books. One of my favorites is:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

What I take from Buechner’s words is to live fully, make wise decisions; in other words, pay attention to your life. Pay attention to the special moments that happen every day and to all that is happening in the world around you, even in politics.

We are starting a new year. We just experienced a divisive presidential election. My candidate lost. Yet life goes on.

See the entire article here ….

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Statement on Gov. Greg Abbott’s Endorsement of School Choice Vouchers

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson - Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson – Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children

January 24, 2017  by Rev. Charles Foster Johnson

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said today that school choice voucher programs constitute “a civil rights issue” and said he would sign a school choice bill if one comes to him.

With all due respect to Gov. Abbott, voucher-type schemes are the antithesis of civil rights.

“School choice” voucher programs re-segregate our schools according to race.

“School choice” vouchers are not for poor children, as they are purported to be, because they don’t begin to cover the cost of a private school education.

“School choice” vouchers underwrite the private education of families affluent enough to send their children to private schools.

“School choice” vouchers violate religious liberty by establishing and advancing religious schools with public tax dollars.

“School choice” vouchers are unconstitutional because they do not “make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” as the Texas Constitution mandates the Texas Legislature to do.

“School choice” vouchers deplete the funding of the public schools that do not screen or discriminate, but accept and love all children regardless of race and class.

“School choice” vouchers destabilize and overburden the traditional neighborhood public school.

“School choice” vouchers expand and extend government into the sacred and private spheres of our home and church schools.

“School choice” voucher programs do not improve the education of children who receive them.

“School choice” vouchers are not a real “choice” at all, except for those who would privatize the public trust of education for all children, making commodities of our kids and markets of our classrooms.

The American civil rights tradition was forged by values of human dignity and equality taught and modeled for our children every day in traditional public schools.  Hijacking the term “civil rights” to advance the narrow private interest of “school choice” vouchers is morally wrong, and we call upon Gov. Abbott and other Texas state leaders to cease doing so now.

School ratings are a shallow attempt to grade a complex system

JANUARY 25, 2017  FROM TRIB TALK – A PUBLICATION OF THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by Charles Luke – Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

During the first week back from Christmas, Texas schoolchildren, parents, teachers, administrators and communities were greeted with the news that many of them aren’t up to snuff. On the same day that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unfurled his already infamous “bathroom bill”, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released its 2015-16 A-F Ratings, effectively splashing cold water all over Texas communities diligently engaged in educating the state’s children. Although officials say these are preliminary report cards, thousands of schools feel shortchanged.

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

Dr. Charles Luke is the Associate Director of Pastors for Texas Children

The A-F rating system — patterned after the A-F grading system on students’ report cards — was ushered in by the Texas Legislature in 2015 and was touted as a way for parents and communities to have a clear, concise way to tell just how well or poorly their schools are actually doing.

Regardless of this claim, research reported by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and conducted by the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University indicated that basing a letter grade almost exclusively on student test scores does not account for other factors that contribute to school performance, including factors outside of a teacher’s control. The researchers also found that A-F grades in Oklahoma did not lead to school improvement because they don’t explain what led to low performance and do nothing to build educational capacity.

Subsequent research by researchers at The Education Trust found that A-F systems actually mask low performance among certain sub-groups, hide high performance, and inhibit parental participation in low-performing schools.

One of the most compelling and as yet untold stories is what A-F will do to community development across Texas.

One of the most profound economic engines in Texas is the growth in property values and property taxes fueled by the steady influx of people from other states. A corporate-friendly state, Texas has reaped the benefits of new industry and rapid growth. All of this growth has led to the development of a strong residential real estate industry with steady and significant rises in the median home price over the last few years.

What happens to Texas communities when the quality of schools — a strong, locational motivator — is impugned by artificially low performance ratings? Highland Park ISD is an interesting example of this. The median home price in this area is just over $1.6 million. While the district received good grades on Student Achievement, Student Progress, and Closing Performance Gaps, they received a “C” on Postsecondary Readiness. Who wants to pay $1.6 million for a house only to put their child in a school that the rating system says provides weak preparation for college or the workforce? Realtors in Texas need to ask themselves why they are allowing an unproven system to be imposed that potentially will cost them millions of dollars in lost real estate commissions.

Whether the A-F release was pre-engineered to coincide with the lieutenant governor’s bathroom bill announcement or not, the timing couldn’t have been more symbolic. Patrick is an unyielding proponent of vouchers and the privatization of schools, something that A-F notoriously sets up by declaring large numbers of public schools as failures.

When the complex nature of educating large numbers of diverse children can be subverted with an oversimplified letter grade that says next to nothing, arguing for the need to replace that school becomes that much easier.

Finally, the A-F system is an insult to every child who works hard to learn and to every dedicated teacher who works hard to teach. For years, legislators have complained about organizations that rate their performance without understanding the complex nature of politics. Now, it looks like they are willing to do the same to our kids.

Video: Rev. Charles F. Johnson provides invited testimony at House Public Education Committee

On October 17, 2016 Rev. Charles F. Johnson, Executive Director for Pastors for Texas Children provided invited testimony on public school vouchers to the Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee.  Johnson spoke against vouchers saying that the privatization of public schools would “turn our classrooms into marketplaces and our children into commodities.”

 See his testimony by clicking here…

Texas: Pastors Stand Together Against Vouchers: They Join the Honor Roll!

From Diane Ravitch’s Blog – December 10, 2016

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson has organized strong resistance to the vouchers touted by the most powerful elected official in Texas, not the governor, but the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a former talk show host. Rev. Johnson is leader to Pastors for Texas Children, which has 2,000 members across the state. They are united in their opposition to vouchers and their support for public schools. Year after year, they have defeated vouchers in the legislature, and they are gearing up to fight them again. You can read more about his and his organization here.

I am happy to place Rev. Johnson and Pastors for Texas Children on the blog’s honor roll for their stalwart defense of public schools, of the children of Texas, of religious liberty, and of the principle of separation of church and state.

Read the entire blog article here …..

Pastors for Texas Children Become a Rising Voice Against School Vouchers

By John Savage
For Reporting Texas

“We’ve got a God-given responsibility to maintain and keep this public trust, to protect public schools,” Rev. Charles Foster Johnson bellowed at several dozen pastors, snapping them to attention as they ate breakfast.

img_1826Johnson, 59, is the Fort Worth-based executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, a network of about 2,000 church leaders around the state who work to support pubic schools.

Johnson and his group have emerged as chief adversaries of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Patrick champions a breed of education reform forged around vouchers — which steer money from public schools to parents to pay private school tuition.

“The lieutenant governor said, a couple of weeks ago, he’ll keep bringing it up until it passes,” Foster told the pastors, who were gathered for a meeting of Texas Baptists Committed in Waco. “It’s up to us to stop him.”

In his baritone southern drawl, Johnson told the pastors that vouchers siphon funds from schools in low-income neighborhoods and violate the separation of church and state enshrined in the First Amendment. School vouchers contradict God’s law of religious liberty, he said, by providing government support for religion.

Read entire article here …..