A New Force in School Politics: The Texas Business and Education Coalition

By DeSoto, William | Education, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

A New Force in School Politics: The Texas Business and Education Coalition


DeSoto, William, Education


The Texas Business and Education Coalition (TBEC) was created by the Texas Chamber of Commerce in 1989. The past five years have seen TBEC become an influential force in education policy making. The purpose of this paper is to explore TBEC's role in Texas education politics. The author gathered his data by reading printed information from the organization and by talking to its executive director.

Governing Structure

The key to TBEC's ability to achieve its goals is the prestige of its members. Texas Commissioner of Education Skip Meno, Texas Instrument CEO Jerry Junkins, Arlington Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Lynn Hale, and University of Texas El Paso President Dr. Diana Natalacio are some of the current members of TBEC's governing board. The presence of these and other eminent state leaders ensure that the organization will receive a respectful hearing before the state legislature.

The Coalition is currently devoting its efforts to building local coalitions. More than 30 regional representatives across the state are working to coordinate attempts to cultivate a grassroots movement. As TBEC promotional literature asserts, "a major aspect of education reform is to make a more effective connection between education and work - to bring business people into the schools and school people into businesses." It is likely that teachers and other educational professionals in the Lone Star State will find their workplace changed, not actually transformed, by the emergence of the Texas Business and Education Coalition.

TBEC's Policy Successes

Indeed, TBEC has already begun to have an impact. In the 1993 legislative session, Senator Bill Ratliff incorporated much of what TBEC wanted in his Senate Bill 7. The invariably controversial issue of equalizing school financing was addressed in the bill, but it was a new focus on accountability that TBEC claims primary credit for. The legislation introduced a number of changes in its attempt to "insure access to quality education."

TBEC successfully promoted performance-based education as a way of assessing the effectiveness of schools. Grades 3 through 8 will be annually assessed on math and reading exams. There will be compulsory attendance for at-risk students in extended summer programs. Districts can hire teachers who are "loaned" by a business for a school year if the business pays their salaries.

The introduction of the Texas Successful Schools Awards System is designed to identify schools that are performing well. The "School Report Card" requires reports on attendance, demographics, turnover of teachers, drop out rates for all grades, and scores on college entrance tests. The goal of the legislation is to enable parents to better understand how their children's schools are performing. This initiative is part of TBEC's strategy for securing greater school accountability. By the summer of 1994, the Coalition had mailed more than 25,000 of these reports to interested parents around the state.

TBEC is equally pleased by the State Board of Education's adoption of the Recommended High School Program. This is a voluntary list of courses students who wish to succeed should take in high school. This initiative is part of TBEC's broader Texas Scholars program. TBEC regional leaders present 8th graders with the list of classes they should take. This presentation, entitled "Great Expectations-Great Rewards," is intended to motivate children to work hard. Graduating seniors who complete the recommended curriculum are honored at an awards ceremony. …

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