Who’s Lobbying: Raise Your Hand Texas

In an effort to get a better sense of who’s lobbying for what, we turn our attention to an organization called Raise Your Hand Texas. Our goal? To examine their legislative agenda in the hopes of further expanding our perspective of the many voices seeking to improve and influence Texas education.

Raise Your Hand Texas, identifies itself as “a non-profit education advocacy organization working to strengthen public education in Texas. We train public school leaders to lead transformational change at the campus level, and advocate for public policies that make public schools better for all Texas students.”

Their legislative agenda challenges legislators to:

Restore Critical Funding for Texas Public Schools

  • Texas has the second highest national public school enrollment and the fifth WORST per-student spending
  • Raise Your Hand Texas supports: restoring the $5.3 billion cut from the budget last session

Improve the Accountability System
Accountability efforts should:

  • Expanding the number of measures used to make an accountability rating
  • Include student progress and other factors other than performance on state assessments
  • Provide relevant performance results that the public can easily access and understand
  • “Simplify and align standards and reporting under the state and federal accountability system”

Reduce high stakes testing

  • Texas has by far the highest number of end-of-course exams of any state
  • Raise Your Hand Texas supports: reducing the number of exams, allowing local districts more flexibility over the 15% grading requirement, and “allowing AP/IB exams and Dual Credit course completion to satisfy EOC requirement in that subject”

Oppose School Vouchers

  • Raise Your Hand Texas is opposed to school vouchers in any form, claiming that they “divert taxpayer funds to fund private schools at taxpayers expense”

Fund Pre-k + Reward High Quality Pre-K Programs

  • By restoring funding for Prekindergarten Early Start Grants and for the School Readiness Certification System quality and quantity of pre-K offerings can be increased

Increase Career and Technical Course Options for Texas Students

  • Prepare Texas students for future careers by increasing the number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses that satisfy math and science requirements for graduation

Support Stronger Authority to Close Failing Charter Schools

  • Raise Your Hand Texas opposes: expanding the current cap on charters until significant progress is made in improving charter school enforcement and revoking poor-performing charters

Support Stronger Accountability and Transparency for Virtual School Providers and oppose

  • Full-time virtual education is criticized for its poor academic performance and lack of transparency and yet enrolment has quadrupled in the past four years.
  • Raise Your Hand Texas opposes: “Allowing virtual school providers to deliver courses outside of the Texas Virtual School Network, or to receive direct funding for students using taxpayer funds”

Interested in following this agenda? Raise Your Hand Texas provides regular Capitol Updates to help you stay on top of these issues as they move through the house and the senate

Ok but………. who ARE these guys?

Finding information on what Raise Your Hand Texas supports was easy enough. But efforts to dig a bit deeper to determine who is behind this organization proved to be significantly more challenging.

In fact, we became increasingly more uncomfortable as we searched for information that is (as we understood it) supposed to be public record (such as the organization’s 990 funding disclosure form). When we finally did find their 2011 990 on Guidestar we were most interested to note that the full title of the foundation included the “Charles Butt Charitable Fund.” What does this mean? In short, Raise Your Hand Texas is the private foundation of Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of HEB, who is worth about $7.4 billion according to Forbes Magazine.

What’s wrong with Charles Butt giving some of his excess wealth to help improve Texas education? The short answer is nothing. What we were most bothered by in our efforts to figure out where the money was coming from and what additional motivations may be factoring into their legislative agenda was the total lack of transparency. A non-profit supported by a single funding source is worth keeping an eye on, but its difficult to do so when their website provides no direct access to such information and when the best secondary source is the Linkedin page for Raise Your Hand Texas which states vaguely that its “funded by a Texas philanthropist.” In fact the only source to openly acknowledge the connection between But and RYHT came from RYHT’s social media providers, who define the organization as being “founded and led by Charles Butt.”

Why does this matter? Because, as they say, money talks, and in such a heated debate with so many factors at play its important to know whose pushing for what and why.

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