There are two competing visions of the future of public education in Texas at stake in the debate over HB 5, which begins this morning on the House floor. One side is a group of industries calling themselves Jobs for Texas. Foremost among this group is the Texas Association of Manufacturers. The other side is Pearson, the testing company, and the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, led by Bill Hammond. TAB supports the traditional 4 x 4 curriculum (four years of math, science, English, and social studies). Jobs for Texas and the Texas Association of Manufacturers (which includes superintendents and parents’ groups) supports options for career and technical education which can lead to employment in the state’s major industies.

The stakes here are whether HB 5 is sufficiently rigorous to achieve college readiness. Among the skeptics is the commissioner of higher education, Raymund Paredes. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Paredes said, “The proposed foundation program in both House and Senate bills is less rigorous than the current Recommended High School Program. Consequently, we expect a decline in college readiness.”

Paredes added, “The foundation curriculum reduces the required math from three years to two years and allows a third year of science to be an applied course or a less rigorous course than a dedicated physics course. In addition, the foundation curriculum allows local school districts to replace academic courses with applied technical courses so that there is no assurance that the foundation curriculum will provide all students a solid academic foundation.”
This is a very difficult issue. On the one hand, the future of Texas demands a rigorous curriculum that ensures college readiness. On the other hand, there are many students in high school who are not college material and would benefit greatly from career and technical courses that could result in meaningful employment.