GoArts News February 21, 2013:
Potential Threat to Fine Arts Requirement Currently Resolved:
On January 8 the 181 members of the Texas Legislature returned to Austin to begin the 83rd legislative session with many new members and new chairs of both the Senate Education and House Public Education committees. Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), an artist and pianist, has been named chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) has been named House Public Education Committee Chair.
The primary education focus is on new graduation plans based on pathways (endorsements), a reduction in the end-of-course (EOC) assessments required for graduation, and, in the case of Senator Patrick, consideration of some variation of a voucher program as well as a raised charter school cap. Read on to learn more about:
Both chairmen have filed bills (SB3 and HB5) that modify our graduation programs to give students more flexibility to pursue their individual interests. The bills also expand options for students who choose not to go to college in their preparation for the workforce. Each bill includes 16 credits of required courses that serve as the foundation for every student’s education.
Each bill also includes options for students to choose pathways (called “endorsements”) in areas such as:
- Business and Industry
- Arts and Humanities,
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),
- Distinguished Performance, modeled after the current distinguished achievement program, and
- In HB5, Public Services
HB 5: (24 credits) As filed, this bill includes one fine arts credit in the Foundation requirements and an Arts and Humanities endorsement. As a part of the accountability system, this bill also includes a letter grade for campuses based on community and student engagement in fine arts, wellness and physical education, community and parental involvement, 21st century workforce development program, and second language acquisition program.
SB 3: (26 credits) This bill initially required one credit of fine arts OR CTE in its Foundation courses (effectively removing the current one-credit fine arts requirement in law). After testimony from the fine arts community and ongoing dialogue with staff, Chairman Patrick amended his bill to eliminate the CTE substitute option. SB 3 includes an Arts and Humanities endorsement.
End-of-Course Assessment Reduction
Both chairmen support a decrease in EOCs for graduation, an effort that has strong support from parents, school districts, and among legislators. This change would help limit the necessity for pullout from our classes at the high school level. (A bill to limit STAAR Pullout has not been filed yet, but we will pursue options to once again address this issue.)
Foundation and Enrichment Curriculum
There have been preliminary discussions again about tearing the down the wall between the foundation and enrichment curriculum in current law. With the proposed changes to graduation plans that provide endorsements in enrichment subjects, it begs the question of why we should continue to bifurcate the curriculum into foundation and enrichment.
On the issue of public education funding, state leaders have indicated that they will wait for a final decision on pending lawsuits from the Texas Supreme Court before considering any major changes to the current school finance system. There has been talk about the need for the Legislature to set aside additional money for schools as a contingency for a ruling against the state.
Response to Current Bills
Pro-public school organizations such as Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) and the Texas School Alliance have supported the pathways (endorsements) concept and the continued inclusion of one-credit fine arts requirement for graduation.
It will be interesting to see how this opportunity develops throughout the session. Of course, this is only the beginning of a long and arduous process to develop such a new graduation program (neither bill has reached the floor of its respective chamber yet), but for now the protection of fine arts experiences for all of our students in high school is assured in both plans with more opportunities for electives than at any time in recent history.
Fine Arts Education Caucus
Next week each member of the Legislature will receive an invitation to join the Fine Arts Education Caucus. Click here to determine which senator and representative represent you. Then check the legislative candidate survey published here to determine if they indicated they would join the caucus. If not, call their capitol office and encourage them to enlist.
You Can Help
As the session begins to gain momentum, know that the most powerful tool we have in supporting our agenda is a phone call to a member’s office from a constituent. GoArts.org will continue to be our method of communication to alert you to any action that necessitates a response.
Thankfully, we averted the potential crisis that could have been caused by SB3 and ensured the one-credit fine arts requirement without substitution remained in the bill. This is an example of the type of issue that, had it not been resolved, we would have emailed you and asked you to contact your legislator to gain their support for our position.
We encourage you to enlist booster club members and other supporters of fine arts education to sign up for GoArts.org email alerts. Together we will protect opportunities for students in Texas schools to receive a well-balanced education that includes the arts.