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Abbott shares education plan at Victoria West (w/video)

By Carolina Astrain
April 24, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 23, 2014 at 11:24 p.m.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott talks with Victoria West senior Chase Bennett, 18, left, and other members of the school's student leadership team during his visit to the school. Abbott also took a tour of the school  Thursday and gave a speech to students and school officials about his education plan if he is elected governor.

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To read Attorney General Greg Abbott's phase 2 of his plan for education reform, click here.

Local control is in the forefront of Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's plan for education reform.

"The system is too centralized," Abbott said. "We need to reorder our priorities by putting our trust in administrators, teachers and parents."

The attorney general made a campaign stop at Victoria West High School on Thursday and was greeted by the Victoria school district board of trustees, State Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and 13 students.

"It was pretty great getting to meet him," said Victoria West High School senior Samantha Carroll. "I've already voted for him."

In the second phase of Abbott's "Educating Texans" plan, the attorney general proposed extending an A-through-F grading system to individual campuses so parents can decide where they want to send their students.

The campus grade would be posted on the school's website, Abbott said.

"No child should be stuck at an underperforming school," he said.

Teachers would also receive a bonus for each student who earned a high grade on their Advanced Placement exams under his plan.

Abbott said his plan also would strengthen a parent's voice in calling the commissioner of education for a change in local management.

Much of Abbott's plan, however, is already in place, said VISD Superintendent Robert Jaklich.

"Some of those things are researched-based practices we already do," Jaklich said.

Tami Keeling, Victoria ISD school board president, questioned the investment Abbott would be willing to make for reform.

"For the entire package for my first and second plan that I announced today, it's about $230 million," Abbott said. "The focus is more on finding ways to advance quality and focus on outputs and results."

The funding would come out of the state's general revenue and would not require any additional taxes, Abbott said.

Keeling, who disagreed with Abbott's approach, said, "We're getting too focused on the output and paying teachers for how many kids pass the AP tests. We have to focus on the input first."

Keeling and other board trustees also questioned what the future of fuel and instructional material allotments from the state would be if Abbott were elected governor. Abbott said his answer would be local control for both issues.

"It's those kinds of decisions that are best made at the local level as opposed to these statewide top-down mandates," Abbott said. "It's those type of daily managerial decisions that the local schools are going to have the flexibility to deal, and so they can use their own best management practices to achieve those results."

For the past two years under Jaklich's leadership, there has been an effort to align curriculum and other practices at campuses across the district to create consistency for VISD's highly mobile student population.

"What we have found is that flexibility is really more important than consistency," Abbott said. "What we've found is a greater sense of frustration by one-size-fits-all mandates that really tie the hands of teachers."

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