From KXAN in San Antonio, let’s put forth some questions. Do Texas news outlets know that in Texas, on BOTH sides of the political aisle, activists are very savvy on navigating the websites of news outlets that report on bills moving through the Texas Legislature? Do nervous Texas Legislators know citizen journalists & community activists are equally savvy on following legislation moving through The Lege? Is education not one of the key HOT topics being discussed in Austin? Among community activists I’ve spoken with, the premise that a news organization would fail to publish a Senate Bill number in a story or as an update to a story puts the reputation of these news outlets in a very precarious situation.
The KXAN headline read “Lawmakers advance new option for failing schools” announcing a “turnaround specialist would run troubled school” by creating a special district operated by turnaround specialists. The story gives credit to Michael Brick of the Associated Press and requires block-quoting the entire article below. See if you can spot the Senate Bill number in Mr. Bricks’ reporting:
AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Senate approved a new option for troubled schools on Wednesday, advancing a bill that would create a special district operated by turnaround specialists.
“I think this is the right thing to do for the children that are trapped in low-performing schools,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, author of the bill.
Drawing key support across the political aisle from Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the bill passed 26-5. It still must clear the House.
Under current law, the state education commissioner can prescribe sanctions for schools with low test scores. They range from staff changes to closure, growing stronger with each consecutive year of low scores.
The bill would allow the commissioner to transfer a school into the new statewide “achievement district” for rigorous overhaul after two consecutive years of low scores.
Asked during a debate how many schools might join the program, Sen. West said about 15 would be eligible based on the most recent ratings. But he stressed that the bill would merely create another option.
The decision would fall to Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who has pledged to hold schools more accountable for the performance of minority students and students from poor families. He is working on changes to the system for rating schools.
Some Republicans cast the bill as a troublesomely bold move at a time of upheaval in the state accountability system. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, argued that it would artificially raise the ratings of school districts relieved of low-performing schools.
But Sen. Patrick called it “an important bill to address those schools that have been perennial failures.”
The proposal, modeled on a system implemented in states including Tennessee, was amended to specify that local property tax funds would remain with the local district.
Asked during the debate how his plan would improve on the current system, Sen. West said, “If you close a school in a W community, you pretty much leave a devastated community.”
Nowhere in this story did Michael Brick publish the Senate Bill number – SB 1718. KXAN has not added the bill number to the story on the website.
The Houston Chronicle published the same story (screen shot):
..but if you click on the link the item is not found (screen shot):
Only if you go to the cached page will you find the same story published, with an update at the very bottom of the page (screen shot)::
So the Houston Chronicle, to its credit, updated the story to publish the Senate Bill number, title and link to the Bill Lookup. Then the entire story was scrubbed, only to be found on the cached page.
How did other Texas news sites report Mr. Brick’s story?
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal? Nope, no mention of the Senate Bill number as an update to the story.
The Dallas Star-Telegram? Nope, broken link.
The Longview News-Journal? Nope, no mention of the Senate Bill number as an update to the story.
But Yvonne! Maybe news outlets don’t typically report House or Senate Bill numbers in their stories!
That is exactly my point and the premise to my lead paragraph. Texas news organizations should identify the bill numbers related to the stories they publish because their obligation is to inform the public. Armed with bill number, the public can educate themselves. Otherwise it gives the perception the news media interests lie more in protecting Texas Legislators than in reporting the news to the public.