Sixty North Texas school superintendents have joined forces to protest what they say is the state legislature's attempt to attack public education.
They are pointing to the state's new "A through F" system of grading school districts, calling it a deliberate attempt to vilify public schools and implement a voucher system.
Similar protests had already taken place in other cities across Texas last week. On Monday, an impressive display of superintendents and school board members from sixty of eighty north Texas school districts cascaded down the steps at the Garland convention center. They were unified in their belief that the Texas Education Agency's new system is a scheme to primarily make public schools look bad.
"I believe that was an attempt to discredit schools," said Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent.
Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland agreed. "It's designed to create a certain percentage of schools that will be failing," said Vroonland. The next phase of the scheme, they say, is for lawmakers this upcoming legislative session, to implement a new school voucher system in Texas.
"What we're concerned about is a system that is designed to vilify public schools, to undermine public schools," said Garland ISD School trustee Rick Lambert. Every school district official in attendance at the news conference Monday held their hand up in support of the theory that this is a deliberate attempt to undermine public education in Texas.
Even Highland Park Superintendent Tom Trigg is upset. "There's a real dysfunction I think when we get a "C" and yet the end result is we can show we are an "A" to and "A+" district," said Trigg.
What is less clear is a possible motive. Why would Lt. Governor Dan Patrick be leading the charge to undermine public education in Texas?
Some in the group were not afraid to come out and express their opinions. "This system is based on getting vouchers in which we know is not going to help the poor kids or minority kids," said Terrell ISD Superintendent Michael French. "It's a subsidy for rich, affluent folk."
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has not returned our request for comment. Supporters of the "A through F" grading system say it's simpler and provides more transparency. Superintendents, however, say they will vigorously lobby against anything they feel erodes public education.