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Kauffman, continued from page 7 was a real shocker.And that just took the air out of the sails of the people who truly wanted to improve the border’s higher education. But UTSA here got extra buildings, extra programs. They got the beginnings of their doctoral programs. The downtown campus is here because of the lawsuit. A brand new campus is in Laredo because of the lawsuit. Pan Am, Edinburg, and Brownsville got additional funds because of the lawsuit. TO: Why do you think the court ruled against you? AK: There were several things going on. Basically the state blamed the institutions; they hadn’t been effective lobbyists and they hadn’t been effective within the higher education system in seeking programs. The Court agreed that it was OK for Texas to have this system with two flagships in College Station and UT-Austin. They had just been through the Edgewood caseand I think they were quite reluctant to get into dealing with the higher education finance system. Nobody has ever told me that, that’s never been written, that’s just reading between the lines. The second is this testing case, the TAAS case in 2000. I just felt very bad about losing that one. I don’t think the tests accurately reflect minority kids’ knowledge and abilities. Even if they did, there’s too much weight on the test scores. My third grader has spent all week working on the TAAS. We almost got legislation passed on this last session.We got it through the House, but the chair of the Senate education committee did not like it so he never set a hearing on it. Now next session may be different because next session there will be some results. We project that something like 20-25 percent of third graders will fail the tests and then will fail the third grade. TO: What you lost in the court you may be able to get in the Legislature? AK: I think so.To some extent, I think the courts have moved away from being very active in a lot of these areas. It’s not like it was 20-25 years ago. The Legislature is probably the place where you can get more done. You don’t always get what you want; you don’t get that in the court either. TO: Where does your anger come from? What “fuels” you? AK: I don’t know. I don’t know how much of that fuel is left. Maybe that’s some of the reason I’m leaving. I think my anger came from growing up in the ’60s, the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, watching the people get beat up on the bridge in Selma, civil rights people killed. Growing up in Galveston, which was obviously a pretty racist, old-time, southern city. TO: Did you go to an integrated high school? AK: No, no, no. There was perfect segregation. My high school, Ball High School, was eight blocks away from Central High School, which was all black. It was the last yearI graduated in ’65the last year there was segregation. TO: Did you expect to get into school reform? AK: I didn’t. I had done some education work in bilingual education, some voting work, some employment work. I didn’t expect to really get into it and then I got into the Edgewood case. TO: It’s a good place to find an underdog. AK: Oh yeah, you bet. I worked with a lot of experts who taught me about these things. My friends at IDRA \(Intercultural Development Research worked with through the years. People say, “Well you haven’t done anything to change the districts.” And they’re right.There is only so much you can do. If you have a bad superintendent and a bad school board, there’s not much I can do. TEA and state leaders can do more in terms of being sure board members are educated on their roles and know about education policy, making sure that the teachers are qualified and certified. The most important stuff is to have small classes and good teachers. I have my kids in public schools. I’m not sure I should, but I do. The schools are a lot better than they used to be. I went to public school in Texas from ’54 through ’65. By the time I was in sixth grade we had tracking, and in the top classes you got a pretty decent education. The bottom classes didn’t; the dropout rates were terrible. The dropout rates are still bad. That’s one of the real tragedies. There are a lot of missing kids. The TEA has been so terrible about covering that up. TO: The Obfuscation Society? AK: You bet. In the TAAS case, one of the state’s experts was Uri Treisman from the Dana Center at UT-Austin. They get millions from TEA and he is their big defender of the testing system. Even he said that he could not defend their dropout numbers. TEA changes its definition of a dropout almost almost every year. It’s a tragedy. TO: If you could change something in Texas, what would you change? AK: Testing is something I’d really like to change. The way the tests are being used is having a lot of negative effects throughout the system, especially for minority education. We overcame some of these other barriers bilingual education, desegregation, school finance those things are slowly being dealt with in Texas. We were getting closer and closer to good education and then the testing came in. It’s a big business model. They want to be able to sit at their computers and pull up test results and tell you how every school in the state is doing. The third grade teachers in my son’s school looked at the results and said the kids are not doing well on objective 11 through 15. And my boy actually knows that third graders in his school are not doing well on objectives 11 through 15 of the TAAS. So now they are drilling on objectives 11 through 15. People talk about progress in Texas education, and I do think there has been progress, but there would have been more without the tests. Belle Zars is a writer living in San Antonio. 4/26/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29