Davis’ Education platform

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that State Senator Wendy Davis, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, has unveiled a new Education plan, one that has already  been called the “most comprehensive in years.” The plan is a multi-pronged approach that focuses predominantly one helping teachers.

First and foremost, she seeks to boost teacher pay, which she was quick to note is far below the national average. Next, she sought to help protect the Teach for Texas Loan Repayment Program. The platform would also include offsetting budget cuts that gutted a similar provision that helps to provide financial incentives to teachers-aides who pursue their teaching certificates. Additionally, the Davis campaign noted they would seek to increase the number of guidance counselors required in most public schools.

I’ve attached the full details of the plan, and assume a few others will provide greater descriptions of the platform, but I want to focus in particular on perhaps the cornerstone of the platform, which strives to make the profession of teaching more attractive to the average student. Davis’ platform would allow for students graduating in the Top 20% of their high school class to gain admission to public colleges and universities (including UT-Austin), provided that they pledge to enter a career in teaching.

The Davis campaign is rather nondescript on the details of this cornerstone, which is worrying to the nth degree. There are a plethora of unanswered questions, a realization that could easily put the feasibility of the entire idea in jeopardy. First and foremost, would students have to sign some sort of contract that they would have to go into teaching? What would the repercussions of violating this teaching pledge be, if any?

These questions are important, because not all students who receive degrees in Education actually go on to become teachers. Even among those who do, the rate of burnout and turnover is remarkably high. If the point of the program is to enhance the quality of teachers, it may not be successful if those who become teachers under this program simply quit after two years and then go back to school or otherwise seek another career.

The other issue, perhaps even more important, is what happens if a student wishes to transfer schools. I make little distinction between those acting in good faith and bad faith within this regard. Plenty of students may have honestly wanted to become teachers when they were Seniors in High School, and then change their minds two years later. Others would surely abuse this provision by applying to the school that is twice as easy to garner an auto-admit therefrom.

At my High School, countless students applied to the easier colleges of UT to gain admission to, such as Education, Fine Arts and Social Work, just to get into the university. I have no doubt this would be exacerbated under Davis’ proposal.

Personally, I have never really been a fan of HB588, colloquially known as the “Top 10% rule.” However, this descriptor is a bit of a misnomer, as 2009 amendments have now decreased the percentage receiving the auto-admits down to 7 or 8. For those unfamiliar, the rule allows those in the top of their class to receive automatic admission to any public university in the State. Most of the students who take advantage of this provision go to UT-Austin.

The rule is more or less a way to accomplish the same result as Affirmative Action without actually doing such a scheme. If I were in Davis’ shoes I would look to ax the whole program and replace it with a modest Affirmative Action program. Additionally, far more attention should be placed upon helping students who benefit under this plan with paying for college. A rich kid in the 7th percentile is far more likely to go to college than a lower middle class kid who might have been a valedictorian.

This entire plan is rather quixotic, in any case, because it is rather financial ambitious and Davis has already ruled out a tax increase.

Burnt Orange Report has more.

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