Education News

Should Texas Follow Florida On Education?

This session in Austin, Texas lawmakers are considering major changes to public education. In a hearing this week, some senators got ideas from leaders from outside of Texas, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has some simple advice for Texas lawmakers.

“I would advocate when you have a chance to reform, it ought to be big. You ought to go big or go home.”

Back in Florida Bush overhauled the state’s education system when he was governor.

He continues to influence education policy through his group the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Now Florida has more charter schools more standardized tests and an A to F grading system for every school.

“And so by having an accountability system where in every year, every kid counts, in effect, we do have high stakes testing all the way through and it yields I think a better result. The minute there’s no consequence — just human nature is what it is — you’re not putting the same kind of priority that you would if there’s a consequence.”

Florida gives every school a grade from A to F mostly based on student test scores.

That’s a little different from Texas. Schools here get rankings from exemplary to academically unacceptable.

Some say Texas needs a system that’s easier to understand.

But former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott isn’t sure Texas needs to copy Florida.

“I think people understand our rating system now and I think changing it to A through F, you know, while it’s an interesting proposal, I don’t know it really is the systemic type of solution that we were talking about up here.”

And not everybody agrees Florida does a better job than Texas when it comes to education.

Linda Bridges directs the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

“What we need is a Texas model. Texas is doing better when you look at math eighth grade NAEP scores, you look at graduation rates and some other things.”

Senator Leticia Van de Putte sits on the senate education committee.

“We certainly don’t want to emulate Florida when it comes to graduation rates. And they rank like 45th and 49th on the ACT and SAT. So while their fourth grade reading scores look good, they’re not doing so well graduating and they’re certainly way, way behind on SAT and ACT. So I asked for clarification, what is that about.”

Van De Putte says she didn’t get a clear answer.

But she’s impressed with other things that former Florida governor Jeb Bush said … like this piece of advice.

“Fund the first things first. Fund your priorities first. Don’t fund the system. Fund the things you want more of which is rising student achievement.”

Bush says Florida funds priorities like prekindergarten.

The state also funds a voucher program. It pays for some students with disabilities to attend private schools.

Local media reports have shown that the voucher program has also suffered from fraud.

From the KUHF Education Desk I’m Laura Isensee.



Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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