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Abilene ISD chief: Lawmakers should work on education funding, testing

By Kristen Pope, Reporter, kpope@ktxs.com
Published On: Mar 25 2013 07:36:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2013 09:13:07 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Education funding and state testing are hot button issues across Texas and in the Big Country.

While Texas ranks 49th of 50 states in funding per student according to the National Education Association, the state leads the nation when it comes to the number of standardized tests that students are required to take.

Abilene Independent School District Superintendent Heath Burns said he is optimistic lawmakers will work to improve per-pupil funding and address the number of tests students must tackle.

"While I'm happy that there's some progress being made, the progress by no means makes education whole," Burns said.

Public school funding was cut by more than $5 billion in the last legislative session. Lawmakers are working on efforts to put some of that money back in the budget. However, not everyone agrees that increasing funding fixes the issue.

"I'm not one of the ones who thinks that throwing money at the problem is going to solve it," Texas Sen. Troy Fraser said

"Money is not the answer, but it’s part of the answer," Burns said. "Being able to appropriately compensate teachers and have enough teachers and have enough programming to serve the kids that we have in Abilene ISD and in districts throughout the state is essential."

Then, there's the issue of rigorous statewide testing. Some Texas lawmakers are proposing reducing the controversial 15 end-of-course exams to five.

"There's a need for change at the secondary school level and I think we're going to get that, but there's also a need for our babies also," Burns said. "There needs to be a recreation of the system there."

At present high school students and kids starting in the fifth grade need to pass all state standardized tests to move to the next grade level.

"I think three would be best," Burns said. "I wouldn't crow too much about five. I think that's a step in the right direction."

The Texas House will review the state testing bill in Austin on Tuesday.