Proposed law would merge two statewide school boards

Allison Kroll

Two Texas education agencies may merge to ease the transition from high schools to universities if a proposed bill passes this legislative session.

Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan, proposed the bill to incorporate the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board into the Texas Education Agency, which would assume the coordinating board’s responsibilities, said Austin McCarty, Brown’s legislative director. The bill could also transfer the functions of the State Board of Education to the TEA.

“[It] is about getting our students prepared to make that jump from the 12th to 13th grades, which is an issue,” McCarty said. “There is a very high number of students going from seniors in high school to being a freshman in college and requiring developmental education courses, formerly known as remedial classes.”

The number of students who are in need of developmental education courses when they graduate from high school, which is up to about 40 percent, is unacceptable, McCarty said.

“There’s a little quote that [the board members] always like to use about ‘closing the gap,’” McCarty said. “Well, the biggest gap is the communication gap between the TEA that handles K-12 and the higher education board that covers 13 through 16.”

The TEA focuses on the inner workings of education for K-12 students by managing the textbook adoption process, overseeing the development of statewide curriculum and administering the statewide assessment program. TEA declined to comment due to pending legislation.

The higher education board looks at the performance of Texas universities and colleges and helps to establish curriculum and development. They also assist in higher education planning, the effective delivery of higher education and the administration of university-specific programs — including establishment of degree and research programs — according to the board’s website.

“We’re trying to get everybody to basically sit down and work on developing the curriculum that’s going to be better preparing our students for that transition,” McCarty said. “On top of that, you’re spending basically two budgets on two different state agencies, and the result just isn’t there at the moment.”

If the bill passes, the higher education board would also create an electronic system for keeping track of student records and academic progress.

The bill could also create a Texas State Board for Career and Technology Education, which would assume responsibility for state level administration of technical vocational education programs in public community colleges, public technical institutes and other eligible public postsecondary institutions in Texas.

Abolishing the higher education board and the SBOE would result in less community involvement in the education process, said SBOE chair Gail Lowe.

“It will create less transparency in the decision-making process since all SBOE meetings are open to the public,” Lowe said.