Educating children is one of the most important responsibilities that adults have. In Texas, Education Commissioner Mike Morath has some ideas about how to improve the state’s educational system. He spoke about them at the State of Public Education Luncheon, which was held on September 30, 2019 in Dallas.
According to Morath, the state of Texas spends approximately $63 billion annually on public education. Budgetary increases proposed in 2019 included money to boost pay for public school librarians and teachers, overhaul school financing, and provide property tax relief for schools. Here are some of the key goals that Morath outlined in his speech at the luncheon.
Accountability and Monitoring
Given the size of Texas and the dollar amounts spent on education, Morath’s top priority is holding schools and educators accountable. He said that Texas will use data to improve the public schools, citing:
n Pre-K readiness
n Texas accountability factors
He acknowledged that the state needs to do better and give schools and educators the tools they need to meet the existing accountability standards. Houston Independent School District is an example. The district may be taken over by the state after falling short of state standards for several years.
Another challenge that Morath mentioned was retaining teachers. He spoke about how the view of teaching as a profession has evolved.
Prior to taking over as Education Commissioner, Morath served on the Dallas School Board. During his tenure, the city introduced its Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), which rewards the best teachers with higher pay.
The new educational bill from the Texas legislature included funds to incentivize the state’s best teachers to work in schools in poverty-stricken areas, where their skills are most needed and can do the most good. He said that he hopes that the pay increases will keep teachers in schools and prevent them seeking out more lucrative work elsewhere.
Prepping Kids for the Future
The purpose of education is to prepare children and teenagers for adulthood, including finding work. Texas has set a goal to have 60% of its high school graduates earn one of the following within six years:
n A college degree
n An associate degree
n Trade credentials
As of 2019, only 31% of students have met that goal. However, Morath pointed out that the most recent numbers are the highest they have ever been. He also talked about the state’s commitment to college prep and early college programs.
Just as important are the state’s P-tech programs, which provide vocational training to students who may not wish to pursue a college degree. P-tech teaches job skills and helps graduates make work connections in their chosen fields.
Two school superintendents, Michael Hinojosa of Dallas ISD and Jeannie Stone of Richardson ISD, took part in a related panel discussion where they talked about improving post-graduation results by linking the instruction kids receive in school to their future lives.
The state of Texas has an ongoing commitment to improving public education, and that starts with giving teachers what they need to educate students properly. Measures such as increased pay and accountability are expected to help educators meet their goals.