Transforming the Texas Education System – TSU Dons Offer Substantial Tips

Funding More All Day Pre-K

By Hon. Carroll G. Robinson, Esq. & Dr. Michael O. Adams
  • Eliminate the Harris County Treasurer ‘s Office, transfer it’s duties to the County Budget Office, and invest the savings in all day Pre-K through Independent School Districts (ISDs) in Harris County.
  • Eliminate the Harris County Department of Education, transfer it’s functions to local community colleges and ISDs, and invest the savings in all day Pre-K through ISDs in Harris County.
  • Transfer Developmental/Remedial Education funding from higher education to investing more in ensuring that all Texas children statewide are reading and doing math at grade level by Third Grade. This is a better use of these funds. It is more cost effective to get students the academic foundation they need for college and career readiness by Middle School rather than trying to do so after they have graduated from High School.
  • Move the High School Allocation to helping fund all day Pre-K statewide or to increase funding for Middle School math and reading programs.
  • Finally, Community Colleges across the state should work with school districts (ISDs) and Charter Schools to establish more Dual Credit Early College High Schools. Early College High Schools help students better prepare for college while also earning college credits during high school thus reducing the cost of a college education. Making college more affordable must be a priority if we want more college graduates in Texas.

The legislature should also require Texas universities and community colleges to report to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local school districts the number of students from rash of their high schools that have to take developmental education courses. Each school district should be required to cover the cost of each of their high school graduate once the current funding for developmental education is reallocated to school districts for all day Pre-K and to help them with K-3rd grade math and reading improvement.

Our goal should be to eliminate the need for developmental education for any Texas high school graduate in the next five to ten years.

Pre-K funding would have to be distributed by a voucher in school districts that don’t have the capacity for more students or interest in starting a Pre-K program.

Statewide all day Pre-K will require strengthening standards for Pre-K providers and teachers to maximize the educational benefit of this effort.

Invert Education Funding

To keep the Texas economy growing, reduce our state’s prison population and help make sure that future generations of Texans have enough personal wealth for their retirement years, we must make sure that more Hispanic, African American and low income Texans-regardless of race-graduate from High School, in the coming decades, college and career ready.

To do that, we must fundamentally transform our state’s education funding system by inverting it.

Instead of the current system of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in remedial developmental education at the higher education level, those funds along with the High School Allotment should be invested in statewide all day Pre-K early childhood education and ensuring that all Texas children are reading and doing math at grade level by third grade.

Based on existing education and brain science research, spending/investing in early childhood education offers the best long term cost benefit and return on investment (ROI) in terms of academic achievement and student success.

Instead of waiting until High School and college to spend extra funding on remedial education and specializations such as languages, those funds would have a greater impact in the earlier years of our education system when children’s brains are at the most formative and important stages of development.

In addition to shifting funding to early childhood education and the earlier years of our education system, the State also needs to ensure that we utilize on-line education to strengthen and expand the State’s prison education system. Research has documented the fact that the more educated a person is when they are released from prison, the less likely they are to re-offend. This is not a call for more funding but rather a call to more efficiently and innovatively utilize the funding already being spent in this area.

If we can reduce the state’s prison population and recidivism rate, that would free up hundreds of millions of dollars annually to reinvest in the State’s education system from early childhood education to college affordability.

In addition to those efforts, we need to move our State’s education system from a farm to factory model to a smart and sharing economy education system. This is a transformation that is bigger than, and goes beyond, the current debates on “teaching to the test”, vouchers and Charter Schools as the answers for school “choice”, and H.B.5 (2015 Texas Legislature Regular Session) as the reform for reducing our state’s High School dropout rate and the solution for increasing college and career readiness.

Community colleges across our state must take on a greater leadership role in this transformation of education in our State.

Community colleges in Texas should pre-admit every elementary school student in their service area and offer them a college scholarship if they graduate from High School on time and with a 2.75 or better Grade Point Average (GPA). The higher a student’s High School GPA, the more successful they will be in college. Pre-admission could serve as an incentive to encourage more students to stay in school, focus on achieving academically and graduating on time.

Community Colleges should work with the School Districts in their community to convert all High Schools in Texas into Early College High Schools. Higher Education research indicates that Dual Credit courses help better prepare African American and Hispanic students for college level academic work.

It’s time to move beyond the old debates, in education, to begin a transformation of the Texas education system that acknowledges and addresses the demographic changes in our student population and the ongoing transformation of our State’s economy as well as that of our nation and the world.

To lead the world, our State and Nation need a new education system built for the “new” and coming “sharing” and cognitive economies. Texas must help lead our Nation into this new reality to maintain our economic and competitive advantage.

Robinson and Adams are professors at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs in Houston, Texas.

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