Access and Information: Testimony in the Texas Senate Committee on Education



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Background: Educators and public school districts are bound to the legislative policies crafted by men and women who often have little experience in public education other than once having been a student themselves. As a result, policies are often not effective at creating positive change in Texas public schools. In addition, the role of policy advocate has become an increasingly important job function of superintendents across the state. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to determine how district leaders and superintendents can best leverage their ability to testify before a Texas legislative committee to maximize their influence on education policy and determine which groups are currently self-selecting to testify in committee. The research questions were the following: (a) What relationship, if any, exists between registering for, against, or on a bill and whether or not an individual gives public testimony; (b) what relationship, if any, exists between an individual’s affiliation with a named interest group and whether an individual testifies; and (c) what type of information (technical, political, or anecdotal) is given by witnesses during oral testimony? Methods: This quantitative study looked at witness registration lists from the Senate Committee on Education in the Texas 85th Legislature Regular Session. Data from these lists were gathered and entered into an Excel spreadsheet. For each registry, information was recorded as to whether the witness registered for, against, or on a bill; whether the witness was registered as an individual constituent or on behalf of a named interest group; and whether the witness was able to testify. Logistic regression was used to determine any association with witness position or interest group affiliation and testifying. Select witness testimony from Senate Bill 3 from the 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature was coded using content analysis

techniques to determine if witnesses provided political, technical, or anecdotal information. Frequencies of each type of information were tallied, and descriptive statistics were used to determine what types of information were given during witness testimony. Findings: The logistic regression model demonstrated a statistically significant association with position on a bill, affiliation with an interest group, providing written testimony, and testifying in the Texas Senate Committee on Education. Individuals who registered to testify on were more likely to testify than those who registered for or against. Those who registered on behalf of an organization and as an individual constituent were more likely to testify than those who registered only on behalf of an organization or as an individual. Those who provided written testimony were more likely to testify that those who did not. Providing written testimony accounted for most of the variability within the logistic regression model. The findings also demonstrated that most witnesses in testimony, regardless of group affiliation or position on a bill, provided a mix of two categories of information. Conclusion: There is a high association with witnesses who register on a bill or providing written testimony and those who provide oral testimony. Superintendents and other district leaders cannot rely on advocacy organizations to represent public schools in the legislature, as such organizations are not being heard in testimony very frequently.



State Legislature, Committee Testimony, Education, Policies, Texas Legislature