A Family Affair
Mon May 21, 2007 5:53 pm

A moment of silence, please, for SB 4, the charter school bill that offered facilities funding for charters, while also demanding fiscal and academic responsibility. Unless it finds a vehicle, the trip is over. Today has witnessed the death of a lot of bills, but this deserves attention for some unusual circumstances:

Two weeks ago, the House Public Education Committee held one of those marathon hearings that began on the evening of May 8 and broke up in time for breakfast on May 9. Authored by Senate Education chairman Florence Shapiro and Kyle Janek, co-authored by Royce West, the bill has the blessing of David Dewhurst. It passed out of Senate committee 7 to zip and was adopted on the Senate floor 30 to zip on April 16.

While the bill is clearly important, some observers were nonetheless a little puzzled to see Rep. Sid Miller, who is not a member of House Public Ed, sitting at the dais for such a grueling hearing. Then came the “aha” moment: one of the opposing witnesses, the executive director of a Stephenville charter school, lives in his district. More specifically, she lives in his home. Debra Miller, representing Erath Excels Academy of Stephenville, testified against the bill while her husband sat amongst the public ed committee members. (Mrs. Miller also testified against the proposal at its Senate hearing.) Since then, Rep. Miller has worked the floor against the bill. Apparently, Mrs. Miller objects to accountability standards in the bill that would shut down poor-performing charter schools.

The bill’s House sponsor, Public Education chairman Rob Eissler, agreed that the Miller&Miller appearance was unusual. Eissler said Miller’s opposition caused him to move the bill cautiously through the process since he didn’t want it subject to a point of order. As for Eissler, he said his chief concern was protecting kids when the state does need to shut down schools with bad records. “I’m very motivated to do the right thing in protecting these kids,” he said.

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