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Day Four of HB 2 'Road Tour' Focuses on Teacher Incentives

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Day Four, and thankfully, the weekend...

The HB 2 "road tour," Rep. Kent Grusendorf's (R-Arlington) series of daily press conferences touting his public education reform bill, closed out the week today with more charts and graphics, more rhetoric, and some fresh faces from the GOP side of the aisle to offer up words of support for his bill.

Stressing increased efficiency and enhanced productivity for state dollars put into public education, Grusendorf said the bill is designed to create opportunities for Texas children. He cited a 38 percent increase in state funding for public education since the 1998-99 school year, and said HB 2 will continue that trend.

Saying HB 2 provides a "double whammy" for Texas by putting more money into the education system and providing greater efficiencies for current spending, Grusendorf said the bill would provide more value for dollars spent, an increase in funding, more equity for the public education system, more accountability and greater transparency that will allow Texas taxpayers to see all of the components of the bill.

Today, Grusendorf focused on how the bill will affect Texas teachers. While the bill will provide additional funding for schools, the House Public Education Chair said it also focuses "more money for the right kind of investment in education - investment in the classroom."

Rep. Dianne Delisi (R-Temple) said she has an amendment to HB 2 that will provide for a statewide incentive fund to reward teachers who succeed in the toughest learning environments. "This performance pay proposal focuses on classrooms with the greatest challenges, and children who are often the least prepared to succeed," she said. "We want to turn these schools around one educated child at a time, one good teacher at a time."

Grusendorf said the system under HB 2 will help the state retain the best and brightest teachers, many of whom are lost from the classroom because they move to administration jobs in the schools or leave for the private sector - both moves to shore up their financial positions. The bill will provide an incentive for a mentoring program and provide for other teacher incentives.

Grusendorf said lawmakers will ask schools to spend 1 percent of their budgets "to produce better results" through a locally designed incentive program that teachers in those districts help design. That 1 percent of funding, he said, can be used for a local incentive program, for a school mentoring program or to target economically disadvantaged campuses.

HB 2 also addresses college readiness, said Grusendorf. Noting that far too many Texas high school graduates are enrolled in remedial classes when they first enter college, the Arlington Republican said there will be a renewed focus on college readiness, the state will pay for college entrance exams and there will be a move toward end-of-course exams.

Putting more money into teaching excellence, said Grusendorf, "will lead to more productivity in the classroom and help us achieve the destination we all want to attain - academic excellence. We must make closing the achievement gaps the number one priority in the state of Texas."

Carol Jones, the parent of a child who finished public school in Texas, offered support for HB 2, saying, "The investment we make in education is going to determine whether this state prospers long into the future." Saying Texans want more productivity from the state's public schools, Jones said the state should "target current and new resources toward results-based initiatives."

"Let's not lose sight of the grand goal - making academic excellence the standard for every school," said Rep. Dan Gattis (R-Georgetown). He said Texas educators and schools have done a "great job" in Texas of bringing more students up to minimum standards set by the state. However, he said the focus should now be on "maximum achievement, and not just minimum passing standards."

Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) said academic ratings should give a "clear picture" of whether a graduate of a Texas high school is prepared for college. "We want more productivity out of our schools," he said, noting that HB 2 will provide a "clearinghouse" of best practices in classroom.