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Promoting a Delay

A bill to delay a ban on social promotion died this month in the Texas Senate. But, oh, what an interesting life it led.

Sylvester Turner

Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, introduced the measure in March, after state Commissioner of Education Jim Nelson said he would favor a one-year postponement of the ban on allowing students who fail state tests to advance to the next grade, because the first phase of the policy is set to kick in the same year as new, tougher state tests. That is, in the 2002-03 year, a new reading test is slated to start determining whether 3rd graders advance to 4th grade.

A few days later, the House unanimously agreed to accept Mr. Turner's bill for consideration.

But three days after that, the commissioner reversed his position, and Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, who had expressed support for Mr. Nelson, followed suit. Both men said that they were confident that measures in place to help students would result in high passing rates.

An angry Rep. Turner suggested that the turnabout came at the behest of President Bush, who led the attack on social promotion in Texas and has been pushing Texas-style accountability in Washington.

Some legislators thought the loss of such critical support would sink the bill. Instead, with the strong backing of Democratic Rep. Paul Sadler, the head of the House education committee who in 1999 had sponsored the ban on social promotion with then-Gov. Bush, the bill passed the House by a wide margin.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Teel Bivins, the chairman of the Senate education committee, came down hard against a delay. The greater wrong, he said, would be to keep promoting unprepared students.

And so Mr. Bivins refused to give the bill a hearing in his committee by the May 18 deadline, in effect killing it. The ban is thus due to take effect in 2002-03.

—Bess Keller

Vol. 20, Issue 38, Page 20

Published in Print: May 30, 2001, as State Journal

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