School Board Asks TEA to Prioritize Mental Health

Calallen High School | Image by KRIS

A Texas school district’s Board of Trustees wrote a letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath with concerns about how much the Texas Education Agency (TEA) spends on standardized testing, such as the STAAR test, urging the legislators to consider spending more money on mental health.

In the letter released to the public, the Board of Trustees for Calallen ISD, located in a suburb of Corpus Christi, asked the TEA to re-evaluate its priorities. The board suggested that funds allocated for standardized testing could be better spent on the “more pressing needs of teacher retention and mental health.”

“Texas children are suffering while TEA continues to push forward with a technology and data drive agenda,” the letter states.

It further stated that the State spends over $900 million on standardized testing.

Last year, the State of Texas signed four-year agreements with Cambium Assessment, a Washington, D.C. company, and Pearson, a London-based company, for work related to standardized testing. Together the contracts total $388 million.

As reported by The Dallas Express, in 2019, 78% of Texas students passed the STAAR. In DISD that year, 73% of students passed — the district’s best showing in the last 10 years.

“All schools need more licensed therapists, support staff, and education for our teachers,” the letter said. “The fact that their child passed the STAAR means very little to a parent that has lost their child to suicide or a school shooting.”

After the Uvalde mass shooting, Governor Abbott announced that $105 million in already-approved funding would be distributed to various agencies and programs to enhance school security and improve mental health care. Half of those funds will be used to buy bulletproof shields for school police officers.

“We cannot stand by any longer and continue to accept the projected path of Texas education. The Texas education system needs to be restructured with a new focus on student health, a return to community decision-making, and correcting teachers’ salaries. Texas students deserve better,” the letter stated.

Emily Lorenz, the first-year superintendent for the district, agrees that now is the right time to address the TEA’s spending priorities and said that she would like to see safety, school security, and mental health at the forefront rather than education.

“We’re not against state testing,” Lorenz told WFAA News, but added she believes there is a need for “a more equitable system and to bring awareness to some of those additional needs that maybe aren’t funded at such a high level.”

One advocate told The Dallas Express that schools’ responsibilities should stay within the scope of education.

“Schools should only be involved with children’s mental health in situations where a child is clearly upset about something (i.e., crying, yelling, disrupting class, etc.), and schools should not be using invasive surveys and other means to force personal information out of kids,” said Kelly Neidert of Protect Texas Kids. “If there’s a child who is suffering emotionally, a teacher should work with the child’s parents to determine how to best handle the situation.”

Amid a push for adding mental health services to education in Texas, a 2022 World Population Review survey found Texas’ public schools K-12 ranked 33rd in the nation.

As Texas falls behind the rest of the U.S., Dallas ISD has fallen behind the rest of the state. DISD’s STAAR scores for the 2020-2021 school year were below the statewide average across the board. For all grades and all subjects, only 60% of DISD students received scores of “approaches grade level,” compared to 69% in the state.

The Dallas Express reached out for comments from Texas Values and Texas Family Project but did not receive a response.

During its next session in January, the Texas Legislature will consider the topics of school safety and mental health.

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1 Comment

  1. Bobby

    When Da Guv-mint is pushing mental health its all part of setting everyone up for the big gun grab by the liberal aholes / Demorats. RED FLAG LAWS….DONT FALL FOR IT…Grow up and get out of your parents basements and stop playing video games…dumbazzes



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