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Friday, January 18, 2013

House Budget Statement Reflects Bonnen Commitment to Address Broken Testing System

Insider's Report Vol. 9, No. 2

"We have tested students and teachers to death in this state."

These were my words during the 2011 session when I took to the front mic of the House floor to argue that our state accountability system has overgrown its purpose to the extent it is taking money out of the classroom, wasting tax dollars, over-stressing students and parents, and overburdening our teachers while not accomplishing its mission.  As the Texas Legislature once again faces the issue, my determination has not wavered.

This week brought extremely encouraging news for all of us leading the fight against burdensome and unnecessary high-stakes testing in our public schools.  On Tuesday, the Texas House released the base budget bill in which funding for public school testing was ZEROED out.  Do not be mistaken -- this does not mean that the problem will be exacerbated by turning testing into an unfunded mandate for our schools.  Quite the opposite, it makes a strong and very bold statement that the Texas House of Representatives is finally on board with what I've been saying for years and we are ready to fix the problem.  It also forces the hands of legislators that may not feel as strongly as the rest of us.  Funding will undoubtedly be reinstated but with the goal of a greatly revamped testing system.

This announcement builds upon my efforts as a joint-author of House Bill 44 this session to place a two-year moratorium on public school testing.  I think we can all agree that there is value in having a uniform state test that effectively measures how well schools are performing.  But the current system is beyond broken and must be fixed.

Along with House Speaker Joe Straus' Opening Day pronouncement that testing is a priority in the House, this week's budget announcement, which materialized due to the continued efforts of me and several of my colleagues, has created great momentum for the session.  We have sent a clear message that the Texas House of Representatives is serious about finding a real and lasting solution that clearly and effectively reflects the success of each and every student in our Texas classrooms.