Sep 29, 2022 - News

Texas school system is in crisis, experts say

Illustration of a chalkboard in the shape of a battery with low power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

School districts across Texas are grappling with staff fatigue, overcrowding and discord among their leadership — and they may be at a tipping point, education experts say.

Driving the news: The drama has intensified in North Texas in the past month, even making national headlines. And staffing issues persist across the region and the state.

  • In Allen, rezoning plans to address overcrowding in some schools have sparked pushback from some parents.
  • In the Grapevine-Colleyville school district, the superintendent of 13 years announced his retirement and a trustee alleged she has been the target of a politically motivated "witch hunt."

Why it matters: The discord distracts from an important and necessary conversation around school quality in Texas, David DeMatthews of UT Austin and David S. Knight of the University of Washington write in an op-ed that recently appeared in three Texas newspapers.

State of play: In August, the Texas Education Agency released report cards for school districts after a two-year pause due to COVID.

  • More schools got an A or B than in 2019, indicating progress.

Between the lines: Roughly 560 schools didn't get a rating because they would have received a D or F.

  • DeMatthews and Knight write that almost 90% of those schools are in the state's poorest communities. "None is in the most affluent communities," they say.

Zoom in: Dallas ISD received a B overall, but 59 of its schools got a C rating, and 22 schools get no rating.

  • Highland Park Independent School District got an A rating, and none of its schools got below a B.

The big picture: Gov. Greg Abbott has formed a task force to find solutions to teacher vacancies. Congress is also looking into the problem.

Yes, but: The professors attribute inequities among Texas schools to "policy failures" that have kept the state from adequately funding schools in poorer communities and creating a workforce that can fill every school — not just the more affluent ones — with high-quality teachers.

  • Special education and rural schools also need more attention, they say

The bottom line: The education experts say the political focus on critical race theory and LGBTQ bathroom policies have only detracted from the real problems, including teacher retention, school financing and improving special education programs.

What's next: The upcoming elections and ​2023 legislative session will be an opportunity to fix education policies, DeMatthews and Knight say.


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