Texas Education is a Victim of Fiscal Restraints
In January 2013, as he stood before an Austin gathering of about 3,000 Texas public school officials, the state’s education commissioner issued a plea.
If the state backed away from its high school graduation standards, Michael Williams said, it would do “nothing more than put at great risk the futures” of Texas students.
“We’ve got to hold the line, and all of us have got to show a little courage in this thing,” he said.
Five months later, the Texas Legislature passed a comprehensive overhaul of high school diploma requirements that included dropping an existing requirement that all students take algebra II to graduate and dramatically reducing the number of state standardized exams.
Thousands of parents and educators who had filled legislative committee hearings and tied up Capitol office phone lines did not share Williams’ fears about straying from the state’s high school curriculum standards, which had become some of the toughest in the nation by the mid-2000s. If legislators did, few expressed it publicly.
The momentum drowned out the voices of critics who cautioned that backing away from the state’s high standards amid a surging economy and increased demand for skilled workers could lead to future challenges. The statewide backlash was fueled in part by anxiety over how public schools would meet the high standards following the 2011 Legislature’s $5.4 billion cut to public education.