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CSCOPE battle leaves Texas Education Service Centers undeterred

One year ago the swell of parent, teacher and taxpayer concern over CSCOPE, the controversial public school curriculum management program once used in more than 70% of Texas school districts, was rising. A tumultuous 83rd legislative session appeared to take Texas Education Service Centers (ESCs) to task for CSCOPE and a number of related questionable activities. Though spring and summer political theatre promoted CSCOPE as dead and ESCs now planning to be more transparent and responsive, indications keep coming that nothing could be further from the truth.

CSCOPE was problematic on many fronts. Serious taxpayer advocates still legitimately question how this curriculum management system was developed using public funds yet organized to operate outside any normal taxpayer accountability and government oversight channels? The program featured anti-American as well as other impractical and poorly-crafted lessons while those who operate outside groupthink environments found concern with its campus-level implementation seemingly attempting to enforce a regimented, indoctrination-oriented approach to classroom instruction. CSCOPE as a backdoor approach to implementing Common Core was another credible criticism.

Watchdog Wire recently published an article on Common Core’s use in Texas public schools despite legislation specifically outlawing its use. In a post Texas Education Service Centers Welcome Common Core!, Red Hot Conservative gives additional examples that Common Core is alive, even thriving in Texas schools.

Similarly troubling is how it seems ESCs have developed their own in-house program to produce new school administrators in response to the growing number of administration positions the education industry continues creating.

Texas CSCOPE Review recently posted this stunning ESC solicitation of candidates for a Superintendent Certification Program. Besides noting college coursework as no longer a requirement for superintendents seeking advanced “certification,” the site astutely reminds that ESCs now seem to do it all with creating not just taxpayer-financed products (like CSCOPE or its latest repackaged incarnation), but also the superintendents and school board members who then use additional tax dollars to buy these products.

Bill-Ratliff-Superintendent-Certificates1

Of the certification program’s major program characteristics promoted, this one was eye-catching as an education industry bonus offering the prospect of a second job or post-retirement income opportunities.

All instruction comes from practicing professionals who are current or recently retired superintendents, assistant superintendents, school attorneys, school finance consultants, school construction experts, school business managers, school facilities consultants, school bond issues consultants, school foundation directors, Certified Public Accounts, and Region 8 specialist. 

With the costs of these programs funded by taxpayers and unelected ESC officials having no substantive oversight of their activities, this is a business model of highly unique proportions and one that should deeply disturb Texas taxpayers.

Current numbers on public school finance always seem somewhat elusive. With that, the best data we have is often several years old. Nonetheless, it is telling.

This is an interesting statistic provided by Fortune Magazine in 2009. Note that if it were a private company, the Texas public education industry would be the fifth largest company in the world.

World'sLargestEmployers

So who are those employees? Information from the Texas Education Agency 2011 Statewide Snapshot shows that for every public school teacher in Texas, school districts have one non-teaching staff member. Many of those are school administrators either at campus levels or central administration staff positions.

Texas local government debt has been tracked to $322 billion although new bonds approved in the November election now put that number more aptly at $330 billion with the greatest portion being school district debt.

LocalGovt.Debtpiechart

And though some may claim enrollment is the cause for new debt and spending, school populations aren’t increasing in any sensible proportion to spending.

GrowthinPublicEducation

Last February during a Texas Senate Committee on Education hearing on CSCOPE,  former State Board of Education member Carlos (Charlie) Garza described the ESCs creation and administration of CSCOPE as “a shell game.”

“What you see today is not Enron, but ed-ron – where we are playing this game of hide-and-seek from the people,” he said.

Seems some things haven’t changed.

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Education, Government Transparency, Must Read, News, Opinion, Policy
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