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Mike Morath Says Public School Students Aren't Making Progress Fast Enough

Stella M. Chávez
Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath spoke at a Dallas Regional Chamber on Wednesday. He was joined by Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Desoto ISD Superintendent David Harris and Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia.

There’s room for improvement for Texas public school children according to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. He was in Dallas on Wednesday talking about the state of education in Texas. Morath said the state needs to do more to better prepare students for the future.

Mike Morath says public schools are performing as well as they ever have – educators have gotten better and public policies have helped students do better.

So what’s the problem?

“It’s just that the economy is too complicated relative to where it was in 1950s,” Morath said. “The percentage of people that need these higher order thinking skills coming out of school is higher than we’re keeping pace. We are making progress. We are not making progress fast enough.”

The former Dallas Independent School District trustee showed the audience at the Dallas Regional Chamber luncheon some charts and said what they reveal is “frightening.”

White students continue to do as well or better on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams as they did 20 years ago. But there’s a considerable gap between the achievement of white kids and both black and Hispanic students. Morath said that’s alarming because minority students make up the majority of public school enrollment in Texas.

“I want all of my brothers and sisters to experience success,” Morath said. “But you don’t actually have to care about children at all to recognize that education and addressing these gaps is the single most pressing existential issue that the state of Texas faces.”

Morath called on people across the state to get involved and demand improvements – and fast.

After his address, he joined local educators for a panel discussion -- the superintendents of Dallas and Desoto schools and the CEO of Uplift, a charter school system in North Texas. They talked about what should be a priority in Austin next year when the Legislature convenes.

Desoto ISD Superintendent David Harris says the state needs to provide more funding for pre-kindergarten education.

“If we know that something works [and] it’s been proven, why don’t we just invest the money into it to ensure there’s going to be success for all students,” Harris said.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said his district needs more money, not just for pre-K, but for programs that allow high school kids to earn college credit. He also wants more funding to pay great teachers to work in tough schools.

“So the thing I need is for the state to do no harm,” Hinojosa said. “That’s a Hippocratic oath. But I got a feeling … that we’re not going to get any more money.”

And, Hinojosa said, he certainly doesn’t want the state to make any more education budget cuts.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.