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Texas Ed. Commissioner to Step Down After 5 Years


In case you haven't seen it already, it's worth noting on State EdWatch that Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has announced that he will step down from his post on July 2.

Reading the Associated Press story, Scott comes across as an education official conscious that he was caught between warring priorities and political factions. It's not every day that an official personally apologizes to school leaders for funding cuts, as Scott did in February after public schools in Texas lost $5.4 billion in state budget cuts back in 2011 (an official might be more likely to say that he or she "regrets" such losses). This unusual gesture could explain why the AP report features it in the first paragraph.

Various groups, as I highlighted in a recent blog post, are suing over those cuts.

Conservative officials in Texas, ranging from GOP Gov. Rick Perry to Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, gave Scott public pats on the back when he announced his plan to resign. Hammond praised Scott's efforts in a generic way, saying he "always put the needs of the school children of Texas first," and Perry highlighted the commissioner's work on "raising the bar" for student achievement.

But Scott, who will have spent five years as the top education official in Texas when he resigns, also was not afraid to take a controversial stand against the flow of education policy and politics in the state. For example, Scott gave school districts the option of delaying the results of new ninth-grade end-of-course tests for accountability purposes for a year, until 2012-13. He lamented the role tests had assumed in the state's educational system, saying he looked forward to "reeling them back in."

The AP notes that leaders such as Hammond liked those tests, and a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association also seemed to take a shot at Perry when he said, in response to Scott's resignation, that Perry didn't like people close to him who didn't agree with his policies.

That's not to say that the grand theme of Scott's tenure was opposition to education trends in his state. For example, he spoke out against the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by Texas, saying that the standards in the state should be unique to Texas and better than what was adopted by other states. Scott did not give a specific reason for his departure.

CORRECTION: The original version of this post used an incorrect name for the Texas State Teachers Association.

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