PolitiFact: Abbott’s plan to train principals gets an incomplete


When he was campaigning to be governor of Texas, Greg Abbott called for training school principals to be better leaders.

But we’ve found that, with his first term entering its fourth year, the Republican governor has not brought this promise to fruition.

“I haven’t seen that come down the pike,” Mark Terry of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association told us by phone.

Abbott’s 2013 campaign compendium, his “Bicentennial Blueprint, Greg Abbott’s Working Texans Plan,” pitched for a “public education campus leadership program to train principals and other campus leadership staff.”

Abbott declared that the effort should ensure that campus leaders have the skills to spearhead reforms stressing character development and infusing campuses with a focus on college preparation and graduation, on parental involvement and on students learning to achieve as individuals and learning to work collaboratively.

Abbott specified the state should offer financial support enabling school principals and others in leadership positions to receive optional advanced leadership training through partnerships with organizations such as KIPP charter schools and Rice University.

When we inquired, we didn’t hear back from Abbott about progress on this promise.

Legislative records show that Democratic lawmakers filed proposals in March 2015 in the spirit of Abbott’s call. Senate Bill 1036 by state Sen. José Rodriguez of El Paso didn’t draw a hearing. House Bill 2224, by Rep. Joe Deshotel of Beaumont was heard in April 2015 by the House Public Education Committee where it drew the support of school groups, the Texas PTA and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce before dying without further action.

Deshotel’s proposal directed the state education commissioner to develop and award grants to school districts, regional education service centers, nonprofit groups and colleges and universities to create and provide advanced leadership training to principals and other administrators, with a focus on improving student achievement.

We heard back from each lawmaker. Rodriguez said in a statement conveyed by his district director that he filed SB 1036 at the request of Abbott’s office but it didn’t get a hearing, he said, likely because it would have required state spending.

Deshotel told us by phone that Abbott’s office asked him to file the “good bill” and said he suspects the House education panel didn’t move to send the legislation to the full House because it imposed costs at a time there wasn’t money available.

HB 2224’s fiscal note, prepared by Legislative Budget Board staff, says the legislation would entail $1.5 million in first-year spending to develop training programs — one for administrators in small school districts, another for urban counterparts and one open to any school administrator. Once launched, the note says, the programs together would annually cost $750,000 to operate.

Deshotel, asked why he didn’t offer the proposal again during the 2017 legislative session, suggested that would have been futile. “Until we get some more money that we can appropriate, it doesn’t make sense to file it,” Deshotel said.

We rate this Abbott vow a Promise Broken.



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