Bill filed by Sen. José Rodríguez to address school cheating passes House

By Jose Rodriguez, State Senator —

Last Thursday, the House passed SB 123, which strengthens TEA’s oversight of school districts by providing the commissioner of education with the authority to issue subpoenas and the ability to more easily investigate suspicious data reporting by districts.

“Texas has been working toward increased accountability and transparency in education,” said state Sen. José Rodríguez. “Given the events in El Paso, it is important that we apply due diligence and oversight to actions taken both locally and at the state level.”

One of the tools the state uses to review local operations is the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). Through PEIMS, schools report student data such as enrollment history, disciplinary history, graduation status and LEP status, as well as personnel data.

Current law allows the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner to initiate an investigation for a variety of reasons, but allegations of inaccurate data reported through PEIMS are not included.

SB 123 allows the TEA Commissioner to initiate an accreditation investigation in response to an allegation that inaccurate data has been reported through PEIMS or through other reports required by state or federal law.

This includes data that is used by TEA to make decisions on school accreditation. In addition, the bill allows the TEA Commissioner to issue subpoenas during investigations initiated for the reason described above.

Some El Paso-area school districts have struggled to deal with revelations of cheating that began with an investigation into allegations that the El Paso Independent School District former superintendent and several administrators manipulated both students and data to give the appearance that standardized test scores were improving.

This allowed the former superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia, to receive salary bonuses, as well as increase EPISD’s performance ratings. Garcia has since pled guilty to charges of fraud as well as unrelated federal charges stemming from contracts he gave to a former mistress.

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