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WFISD chief calls TEA tactics "political"
By Lynn Walker, Wichita Falls Times Record News,
The superintendent of the Wichita Falls Independent School District has lashed out at delays by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in releasing the annual ratings of the state’s school districts. The TEA is the state agency that oversees public schools in Texas.
“We’re against all these measures that are designed to be political in nature, designed to make public schools look bad, designed that when we’re actually doing better than we did before, you’re actually going to get a letter grade lower,” Supt. Donny Lee told school board members Tuesday.
TEA first delayed its ratings until the end of September, but has now delayed it again until October.
Lee pointed out a special session of the Texas Legislature is set for October.
The purpose of the special session is to get action on Gov. Greg Abbott’s “school choice” law, sometimes referred to as a school voucher program. On Tuesday, Abbott threatened political consequences for lawmakers who stand in the way of the move to let parents use taxpayer dollars to pay for their children’s private schools. Opponents of the plan say public schools will be hurt if more students opt to go to private schools.
The TEA grades districts A through F, much like a student’s report card. The agency revamped its rating system this year, but encountered flak from local districts that complained the new system could lower their scores. After a number of districts sued, the TEA said it would delay release of the ratings in order to make adjustments to the new system.
Lee accused the TEA of violating its own rules in not having the ratings done by Aug. 15, by not ensuring it’s mathematically possible for every district to earn an “A,” and by not providing districts documents written in simple terms.
“What they released before was a 176-page document that is anything but simple. You need a degree in accounting to get through the math,” Lee said.
He said the TEA requires school districts to follow its mandates under the threat of sanctions or lost revenue.
“But they violated four statutes just in the last month-and-a-half alone. We follow the statutes, we follow the rules, but the rules keep changing and it’s hard to hit a moving target,” Lee said. “We want it to be fair, we want to know the rules before they start.”