Education

EDUCATION

Texas Democrats believe a world-class education system is a moral imperative and an economic necessity. We must provide every Texas child the opportunity to receive the best education in the country from pre-K through postsecondary, including career and technical programs. The changing demographics of the Texas student population pose new challenges that must be met to keep the Texas economy strong and our communities prosperous. We must reverse the inadequate investment in public education that has created a persistent achievement gap for students of color, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. Every child should have access to an educational program that values highly-skilled teachers and encourages critical thinking and creativity, without the harmful impact of high-stakes standardized testing. We must instill in our students a sense of ethics and the importance of truth, the ability to work cooperatively, and the tools to analyze and assess the validity and importance of the information they receive, whether on paper, in the media, or on the Internet. Texas Democrats support the full, meaningful inclusion of Texas students with disabilities as a fundamental right.

Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary Education

The Texas Constitution guarantees the right to a suitable, free public education for all Texas children and places a duty on the Legislature to fund it equitably. Following the gain by Democrats of twelve House seats and two Senate seats in 2018, the Legislature finally reversed its long trend of reducing state support for public, non-charter schools, but even with a massive infusion of new money, aid to school districts from state revenues has still not returned to the share it was in the 2015-2016 school year. Aid per student is less than $300 more compared to what it was four years ago, which is not even enough to cover the costs of inflation. Despite the current recession, Texas must not repeat the mistakes of 2011, when over $5 billion was unnecessarily slashed from public education funding despite sufficient funds available in the Rainy Day Fund to prevent such cuts.

The Texas Democratic Party supports policies and programs that:

  • Protect Texas non-charter public education and make it the best in the United States;
  • Guarantee a quality classroom learning environment; and
  • Expand opportunity for every child.

Protect and Improve Texas Public Education

  • Establish a 100 percent equitable school finance system with sufficient state revenue to provide every child the opportunity to learn in an exemplary program and equitably reduce reliance on “Robin Hood” recapture;
  • Fund public schools based on enrollment, not attendance starting with the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Fully reflect all student and district-level cost differences and the impact of inflation and state mandates;
  • Guarantee local control, by locally elected school boards reflective of the district’s diverse demographics, of schools funded by local property tax dollars;
  • Oppose state takeovers of school districts run by locally elected school boards because they are undemocratic, ineffective, and disproportionately used in majority-minority districts;
  • Fully fund all federal education mandates and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA);
  • Prohibit misnamed “school choice” schemes, such as the use of vouchers, including special education vouchers, virtual schools used as virtual vouchers, or voucher equivalent tax credit schemes that seek to support private and sectarian schools;
  • Strengthen state oversight of homeschooling;
  • Support a moratorium on new charter schools and on the expansion of existing charter school networks through charter expansion amendments, and conduct a comprehensive study of charter school impact on public education, including the fiscal impact on school districts, the state budget, students, school employees, and taxpayers;
  • Insist on due diligence in the screening of charter applicants and veto applicants and expansion amendments from existing charter operators which fail to meet the needs of students;
  • Strengthen state oversight as well as academic and financial standards for charter schools to provide the same level of transparency and accountability required of neighborhood schools and school districts;
  • Prohibit publicly funded charter schools from contracting with for-profit management companies;
  • Prohibit contracts between charter schools and related parties or affiliated organizations that result in conflicts of interest or the misuse of public funds;
  • Require property purchased or leased by charter schools with public funds be declared to be public property;
  • Require charter schools that receive public funds to have elected boards that meet in public;
  • Oppose the creation of a statewide “achievement” or “recovery” school district controlled by the Texas Education Agency that could contract with private operators to run neighborhood schools without local accountability;
  • Support parental and community involvement in our neighborhood schools and encourage their expansion in partnership with community stakeholders, including parents and teachers, using the community school model in an effort to coordinate and integrate educational, developmental, family, health, and other comprehensive services through community-based organizations and public and private partnerships that provide access to such services to students, especially students at risk, in schools and in the community;
  • Use Community Schools as a primary option under the state “turnaround” statute for at least two years before additional sanctions are implemented by law;
  • Develop culturally relevant curriculum standards and textbook requirements based on peer-reviewed research and written by subject matter experts, as opposed to being based on the opinions of partisan extremists;
  • Ensure the adoption of instructional materials that preserve and teach the methods and content of professional arts, trades, science, and social studies experts without censorship or illegitimate editing;
  • Focus on setting curriculum standards and textbook requirements that teach ethical behavior and lead the charge in fighting for racial, social, and economic justice in our public schools;
  • Emphasize inclusion of the history and contributions of all demographics, especially communities of color and other historically marginalized groups, when deciding on curriculum and textbook content, including leveled reading materials to allow students to connect to the text;
  • Require the State Board of Education to exercise absolute fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund and expose and prohibit conflicts of interest.

Establish a Quality Classroom Learning Environment

  • Extend appropriate class size limits to all grades, enforce those limits, and strive for smaller class sizes;
  • Return comprehensive testing to the beginning of the school year and its role as a diagnostic tool, replace high-stakes tests with multiple measures designed to diagnose student needs, improve instruction, and provide prescriptive plans and solutions for each student’s needs, disability, and educational path;
  • Eliminate all pass/fail standardized tests as a measurement of student success and advancement or as a measure of teacher evaluation;
  • End inappropriate testing of students with disabilities whose individual education plans call for alternative assessments of their educational progress;
  • Provide free, accurate, and updated instructional materials aligned with educationally appropriate, non-ideological state curriculum standards and tests, including ethnic studies and environmental education programs;
  • Ensure that schools, classrooms, programs, and appropriate transportation are physically and programmatically accessible to all students;
  • Provide all students with disabilities inclusive and integrated academic and vocational instruction, evidence-informed supports, and full access to the general curriculum, extracurricular activities, and related services in classrooms with their non-disabled peers;
  • Support teachers when they exercise their statutory right to remove a disruptive student from class, subject to state guidelines and in line with their campus Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system;
  • Make school campuses and events drug and weapon free, unless weapons are carried by trained peace officers;
  • Prohibit active shooter drills that utilize traumatic, realistic simulation;
  • Teach non-violent conflict resolutions to students;
  • Equip classrooms with free computers, high-speed internet access, and digital instructional materials; and
  • Adequately fund Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) and Trade programs.

Expand Opportunity for Every Child

  • Allow individualized subject assessments to place students in the appropriate level of instruction for each content area;
  • Devalue grouping by age as the normative class assignments and instead value the levels of which each individual child is capable;
  • Fully fund access to high-quality, full-day public pre-K for every child, count these students for full-day attendance and for all special allotments, and establish appropriate standards for the highest quality instruction;
  • Equip schools and teachers with resources, including teachers’ aides, and effective techniques to ensure that every child performs at grade level in reading, social studies, math, science, and a second language by third grade;
  • Fund family education programs and family literacy programs that equip parents to educate their children in the critical years prior to pre-K and to assist in their children’s education at all grade levels;
  • Promote and appropriately fund multi-language instruction, beginning in elementary school, to make all students fluent in English and at least one other language;
  • Support Title IX protections for gender equity in public education institutions;
  • Serve the individualized needs of each student with appropriate identification based exclusively on the objective assessment of their strengths and needs by qualified professionals for all students who require special education services or services provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act;
  • Prohibit arbitrary limits on the numbers of students requiring special education services;
  • Restrict out-of-school suspension to only those cases necessary for the safety of students and personnel;
  • Ensure all children are provided free school breakfasts, lunches, and after school snacks, as well as summer breakfast and lunch programs for all public school children;
  • Ensure that every student has access to appropriate academic counseling services, as well as psychological and social services provided by competent and licensed professionals;
  • Provide and appropriately fund high-quality instruction for careers in trades and technical education programs;
  • Provide fully funded arts and music education in all schools;
  • Ensure that every school has a fully funded and staffed library, fully equipped with both print and electronic media, that is regularly open and accessible to students and faculty;
  • Provide and fund universally accessible after-school programs for grades pre-K through 12;
  • Develop, implement, and facilitate peer-reviewed curriculum for mandatory, fact-based ethnic studies classes, such as Indigenous, Mexican American, and African American studies;
  • Mandate instruction for all students in studies of diverse cultures and the benefits of diversity to the U.S economy and society;
  • Prioritize eradication of the school-to-prison pipeline by using transformative approaches to discipline that are research-based and balanced, and adhere to the fidelity of the original research-based interventions;
  • Offer statewide equitable dual credit and early college programs that draw at-risk students into college and career paths while still in high school;
  • Provide equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers, in an effort to match the most at-risk students with the most qualified teachers to close the academic achievement gap;
  • Provide culturally relevant learning and wraparound services for students’ social, emotional, and health needs;
  • Provide comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education programs that are LGBTQIA+ inclusive, with a contraception component to reduce dropout rates due to unintended pregnancy, and end failed abstinence-only education policies;
  • Provide access to affordable programs for adults who have dropped out of the education process;
  • Identify instances of bullying, including cyber-bullying, and implement school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports to prevent violence, disruption, bullying, and harassment; and
  • Eliminate disparities in discipline based on race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or any other improper grounds.

Every Student Deserves a Highly Qualified Teacher

Teachers are the single most critical component to a student’s success in education. Teachers not only provide classroom instruction, they also provide emotional support, a sense of belonging, and sometimes even provide students with financial support through classroom supplies and other essentials.

The Texas Democratic Party supports policies and programs that:

  • Recognize the critical role teachers play in students’ lives by setting a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000, expanding collective bargaining rights and expanding one year contracts to three years, and funding out-of-pocket expenses for classroom materials no more than $1,000;
  • Ensure that public school employees have attractive compensation packages that incentivize career-long public service of education professionals;
  • Protect the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) defined benefit pension system and fund TRS at least at the level enacted by the 86th Texas Legislature plus a regular cost of living adjustment (COLA) for every retiree;
  • Repeal the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision;
  • Provide TRS-Care funding that is based on an increasing, permanent funding mechanism;
  • Prohibit awarding taxpayer dollars to corporations to develop high-stakes tests and “Value Added Modeling” linked to teacher evaluations, and oppose test-based performance pay;
  • Support basing teacher evaluations on multiple measures designed by practicing educators;
  • Guarantee early acceptance to college and a teaching job to high school students in the top 20 percent of their graduating class who commit to a teaching career upon certification;
  • Create an endorsement pathway for teaching readiness;
  • Enhance the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Program by tying loan forgiveness to years of teaching service, opening the program to all fields of study, and allowing current teachers to go back to school to get additional certification in critical needs fields;
  • Restore funding for the Educational Aide Exemption to help teachers’ aides go back to school to become certified as full-time teachers to teach in a critical shortage area such as STEM, Bilingual Education, Special Education, or Career and Technical Education;
  • Restore, respect, and safeguard the rights and benefits of education employees;
  • Guarantee that every class has a teacher certified to teach that subject;
  • Recruit and train teachers who reflect the state’s diversity;
  • Provide a mentor or master teacher for every novice teacher;
  • Respect support personnel by providing them due process employment rights and a salary schedule; and
  • Repeal existing legislation and reject further efforts to arm teachers.

Postsecondary Education

Texas Democrats believe all Texans should have the opportunity and be encouraged to pursue affordable postsecondary education. We further recognize and support the essential role of Texas community colleges, which provide an affordable, high-quality education responsive to community needs for those who would be otherwise excluded. We believe the opportunity of debt-free, safe higher education to be a right of all those who may seek it.

The Texas Democratic Party supports policies and programs that:

  • Increase access to higher education by easing financial burdens and leveling the playing field for all;
  • Provide equal and expanded opportunity for community college and trade program students; and
  • Ensure students attend school in safe, fair, and diverse environments that reflect the true face of Texas.

Higher Education

  • Cancel all student loan debt for Texas residents and provide interest-free student loans
  • Provide free tuition for all low-income students at public universities in Texas as well as a rollback of tuition and fees to previous, affordable levels with appropriate regulation reinstated moving forward;
  • Keep the Texas DREAM Act and pass the federal DREAM Act to ensure in-state tuition at state universities;
  • Protect and increase financial aid set asides while expanding grant funding at the state and federal level;
  • Restore formula contact hour funding to historical levels, adjusted for inflation and student growth;
  • Institute federal income tax credits for college tuition, fees, and books, and reduce instructional material costs;
  • Offer equitable paid internships and debt-free, registered, skilled apprenticeship programs leading to certification;
  • Increase research funding and locate a Tier 1 public research and teaching university in all state regions;
  • Fund public HBCUs and all historically-minority public institutions equitably;
  • Strictly regulate proprietary schools, end their public financial aid eligibility, & fully restitute defrauded students;
  • Place a voting student regent, as elected by the student body, on the appointed governing board of each public 4-year college or university;
  • Establish pay and working conditions sufficient to attract faculty, including adequate and equitable pay, healthcare, security, professional dignity, and reasonable workloads for all university employees;
  • Encourage and protect a full liberal arts education, including the arts and humanities;
  • Safeguard the fundamental principles of academic freedom, equality of opportunity, and human dignity; and
  • Eliminate SAT/ACT testing as an admissions requirement for freshman students at all state universities and develop comprehensive assessments for incoming students.

Community Colleges

  • Guarantee tuition-free community college and public trade schools for all Texas high school graduates;
  • Ensure sufficient financial aid for costs beyond tuition for community college students;
  • Provide full formula funding to account for the cost of instruction and the growth in student enrollments, as well as stipulate any “incentive” funding be on top of formula funding and distributed in a non-discriminatory manner;
  • Appropriate funds for new campuses and program expansions;
  • Allocate funds for community colleges to assist school districts in developing career & technology endorsements;
  • Fund Adult Basic Education at a level that fully covers the demand for services;
  • Provide full state funding for employee group health insurance and retirement;
  • Institute equitable pay, healthcare, security, professional dignity, and reasonable workloads for all employees, including retirement and health insurance for full-time employees and proportional health benefits for part-time;
  • Establish universal standards to ensure full transferability of community college credit hours; and
  • Eliminate financial aid rules that penalize students who transfer to universities from community colleges.

Diversity and Safety

  • Maintain the “Top 10% Rule” to guarantee access to universities for the best students from all regions of Texas;
  • Ensure universities offer culturally competent and diverse curricula, student activities, and student recruitment policies that promote understanding, respect, and acceptance;
  • Strictly prohibit discrimination or harassment in any Texas postsecondary institution against any person for any identity or expression;
  • Set stringent standards from the campus level to the national level to combat the crisis of sexual violence and harassment against students at postsecondary institutions;
  • Repeal “campus carry” policies for public university and community college campuses; and
  • Reverse policies that removed the ability of universities to regulate unsafe events.