e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 6: Education


Texas has moved from an economy based largely on natural resources and agriculture to one centered on complex information systems, and our educational system must acknowledge this leap. We cannot rest until all of our citizens are prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Texas is making progress toward this end and has emerged as a national leader in the areas of educational innovation, reform, and accountability. Yet, the state still faces a number of challenges—and opportunities.

Texas must ensure that its high school graduates are ready to enter college or the modern workforce. The state’s transition to a technology-based, high-skills economy requires us to raise the bar on student performance and close gaps in achievement. To accomplish this task, any potential educational “reform” must build on the principles of flexibility and accountability that have guided Texas’ educational policy over the last decade.

Aggressively Address Texas’ Teacher Shortage

Texas faces critical teacher shortages, concentrated in higher grades, specific subject areas and some urban areas. While some districts use stipends or signing bonuses to attract teachers in some subject areas, most Texas districts still have uniform pay scales tied to the state’s minimum salary schedule, which is based on experience. Districts are free to institute different pay scales, but few choose to do so. Schools should reward effective teachers and offer salaries and amenities that will lure qualified professionals into the classroom, and teachers should be rewarded for improving the performance of their students.

The formula used to distribute Permanent School Fund revenue should be modernized. The additional revenue this would generate could be applied toward helping school districts establish benefit packages for teachers.

Direct More of Every Education Dollar into the Classroom

An increasing share of educational spending has gone toward administration, smaller class size and special education needs. The administrative cost ratio presently used to limit the proportion of education dollars spent on administration misleads the informed voter. The administrative cost ratio should be replaced by a more understandable, unambiguous statistic that empowers taxpayers to hold local school officials truly accountable for the share of taxpayer resources that goes directly to classroom instruction.

Create a Flexible and Accountable Education System

Many states, including Texas, are giving parents and students greater choice at every step in the educational journey, while holding schools accountable for results.

Texas should strengthen the state’s system of charter schools by removing the cap on the number of charter schools and offering more logistical and management training support to charter schools.

For higher education, we believe more flexibility in exchange for greater accountability would enhance Texas institutions of higher education.

Greater accountability means imposing real consequences for poor performance. Public Schools should be placed on probation if they are rated “low performing” for two consecutive years. If the school fails to improve by the end of the third year, the Commissioner of Education should impose mandatory reconstitution and remove and replace staff.

Use Technology and Public-Private Partnerships to Cope with the Pressures of Growing Enrollment

Over the past decade, Texas public school enrollment has risen by 21 percent and is expected to reach 4.4 million in 2009. Moreover, the makeup and needs of Texas’ student population are gradually changing, and universities and colleges must adapt to these changes by developing new means of educating students within the constraints of their increasingly hectic schedules.

Public-private partnerships in public school facilities construction and ownership have the potential to offer innovative and cost-effective methods to meet the demands of a growing school-age population. The Internet and “distance learning” can reach students beyond the boundaries of a traditional public school, college or university campus, allowing them to take courses at a time and place most convenient to them.

The state should provide the state core curriculum through the Internet and distance education, and pursue alternatives to traditional school facilities construction. Texas should encourage the establishment of worksite schools.

Create a World Class K-16 Education System

Texas should strive to ensure that all students have the opportunity to continue their education beyond high school. Institutions of higher learning must have students who are prepared for college-level work. One way to do this is to ensure the quality of community colleges’ dual-credit offerings. Gifted and talented students could benefit from earlier exposure to college courses, while at-risk students are more likely to succeed when taught by thoroughly trained and prepared teachers.

Texas should offer a college savings plan in addition to the prepaid college tuition plan. Further, the state should provide guidelines for after-school and summer programs intended to help students at risk of academic failure.

Research funds retained at colleges and universities will enhance their work and draw additional research dollars into the state to benefit higher education and the economy. Higher education should be able to retain 100 percent of their indirect costs.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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