Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Vouchers defeated in Texas

Dr. James Leininger's pet voucher project went down in flames on the floor of the Texas House last night in what was one of the most entertaining, exciting couple of legislative hours one could ever hope for.

And I am proud to say that a dozen or so Republicans made the victory for public education possible. I'll make an update to this post later and name them, because they are remarkable people who will undoubtedly face primary challenges solely on the basis of last night's stand. They were all profiles in courage.

The article from the AP is here.

The video of the debate and the dramatics is here (click on May 23, 1:00-11:44 pm), though you need to fast forward a bit to see the good stuff. Below is a log of the times at which various events transpired, courtesy of the always excellent Quorum Report:

Debate "for" and "against" pilot voucher measure.

For those who missed last night’s floor debate on vouchers, here are the time markers on the archive video for the relevant highlights of last night’s debate:

Rep. Kent Grusendorf lays out Senate Bill 422 on second reading, 4:10:32

Former Superintendent Rep. Bob Griggs, a floor leader against vouchers, challenges Grusendorf on the lack of accountability on the voucher amendment, followed by questions from former State Board of Education Member Rep. Alma Allen and Rep. Pat Haggerty, 4:24:00

Rep. Scott Hochberg offers amendment to strip out everything but the temporary sunset measure, which shows the House’s true division on the issue, 5:20:00

Former teacher Rep. Carter Casteel talks about who she represents in the voucher debate, offers first amendment to strip vouchers, which fails to pass, includes back-and-forth for and against vouchers, 6:24:00

Rep. Charlie Geren offers up surprise amendment to swap districts out in program that eventually passes, 8:24:00, and takes private schools out of bill, which also passes, 8:38:00

Rep. Sefronia Thompson grabs the microphone to call a point of order on the entire calendar, just as Grusendorf calls for a delay, 8:58:05

Speaker of the House Tom Craddick announces he will sustain one of Dunnam’s seven points of order 9:05:40

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sen. Allen introduces a bill to amend NCLB

In today's Washington Post, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) has an editorial claiming that NCLB undermines school progress. In so doing, he describes the rationale for his bill to amend No Child Left Behind.

The bill, according to Allen, would return power for much educational decision making back to the states, where he says it belongs.

This is going to be a fascinating fight between Congressional Republicans and the White House, which, to this point, has been stubbornly opposed to any substantive change to NCLB.

The key paragraph:

Like President Bush, I would like to see all U.S. schools producing better results for the good of all America's youth. But I would hate to see the federal initiative for higher standards undermine the cause of standards for students in states where high academic standards and accountability measures are already in place. Ultimately, we should not allow the self-defeating micromanagement that is characteristic of No Child Left Behind to undercut such states.

"Self defeating micromangement." Ouch, Senator, don't be so mean.

While the editorial is an interesting read, he didn't do a very good job explaining the problem I think he has with No Child Left Behind. Put simply, the NLCB standards are for a minimum percentage of passing scores on state-chosen tests. So a state that elects to have difficult tests, like Virginia, can end up looking very bad (and losing federal money), while a state with easy tests can look very good when, in fact, the state with difficult tests may be doing a much better job educating its children.

I'm not sure how his legislation would fix that problem, but I'm interested to have a look at it and some analyses of the bill. And, as always, the fight between true conservative Republicans and the grow-the-government-as-fast-as-we-can while-we're-in-power-Republicans should be fascinating. I think we'll see more such squabbles as Bush's second term continues. Stay tuned...
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