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Greg Abbott offered a few early education ideas while running for governor.
Now he's signed related proposals into law, each one funded by the 2016-17 state budget. We're marking five Abbott promises about early education as promises KEPT:
- Abbott said it made sense to bring back academies to help teachers in the earliest grades school kids in reading. A predecessor, George W. Bush, had a similar initiative, which later went unfunded. The 2015 Legislature advanced Senate Bill 925, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, requiring the state education commissioner to develop literacy achievement academies for teachers who provide instruction for kindergarten through third grade with a focus on training in effective and systematic instructional practices in reading, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension, and the use of empirically validated instructional methods for struggling readers.
- Candidate Abbott also called for spending $15 million a year on special high-quality training in reading instruction for teachers of fourth- and fifth-grade students. In turn, the 2015 Legislature signed off on Senate Bill 972, also by Kolkhorst, directing the commissioner to develop such academies. The measure’s fiscal note said the project would cost $11 million the first two years and about $4 million a year after that.
- If a school had difficulties teaching children to read, Abbott maintained, the state should offer targeted help. He proposed a pilot program creating "reading excellence teams" to be made available to schools with third-grade students with poor reading test scores. Lawmakers in 2015 sent Abbott SB 935, directing the commissioner to select school districts eligible to join the "reading excellence team" pilot program, set to expire as of September 2021.
- Abbott also proposed math achievement academies to soak math teachers in "collaborative, research-based professional development training." The 2015 Legislature passed SB 934 by Kolkhorst, requiring the commissioner to develop the academies, giving priority to teachers in districts where half or more of the students come from economically disadvantaged households.
- Abbott further said he wanted to spend state aid helping school districts wishing to develop quality pre-kindergarten classes. House Bill 4, by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, made it into law, authorizing more money to go to districts providing quality pre-k classes. Separately, the state budget signed into law by Abbott provided $118 million in such grant funding through 2016-17.