Open Letter to Texas House on Assessment and Accountability
May 24, 2021
Dear Speaker Phelan and Texas House Members:
Pastors for Texas Children would like to thank the members of the House Public Education Committee for their diligent work and careful communication with us regarding SB 1365.
Most major legislation involves tradeoffs. Initially, we were opposed to the bill because, on balance, we felt it did more harm than good to the public education system. While the committee substitute answered several of these issues, we felt that it still granted excessively broad authority to the Commissioner of Education and severely limited the remedy of appeal by local independent school districts.
We believe that this type of centralized authority is intrusive to local control, unhealthy for children, and unwise for government. We also believe that the appeals process should be readily available, accessible, and fair.
Fortunately, while the bill is not perfect, the recent amendments offered by Chairman Huberty and Representative Hinojosa address our most significant concerns and shift the balance of the legislation. Accordingly, we withdraw our opposition to SB 1365 and hold that the bill should move forward to passage.
While we withdraw our opposition to 1365, we feel compelled to acknowledge that the testing and accountability system, which undergirds many of the issues raised by the conversation around the bill, is dysfunctional. It harms rather than serves Texas students.
Our present public education accountability and assessment system needs sweeping reform. It is unwieldy, unduly complex, dangerously centralized, unfairly punishes and stigmatizes children, and is vulnerable to interests far removed from the life and health of Texas schoolchildren and the dedicated local classroom teachers who so valiantly serve them.
We call on the Speaker of the House to appoint a special interim committee to hear an interim charge to dive deeply into these issues and lay out a road map for real and significant reform leading into the next session.
We would again like to thank the members of the House Public Education Committee that met with us and responded so respectfully and receptively to our concerns. Working together, we can continue to create sound policy that ensures the welfare of our 5.5 million Texas schoolchildren. It is God’s work. There is no greater or higher cause.
Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director