Bill aims to teach char­ac­ter,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Julie Chang jchang@states­man.com Con­tact Julie Chang at 512-912-2565. Twit­ter: @juliechang1

State law­mak­ers could start re­quir­ing stu­dents to learn char­ac­ter traits such as hon­esty, kind­ness and school pride as a part of their les­son plans.

The price tag to school dis­tricts and pub­lic char­ter schools statewide is an es­ti­mated $25 mil­lion for next school year and an­other $4 mil­lion in the fol­low­ing year to im­ple­ment the pro­gram and train teach­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency and the Leg­isla­tive Bud­get Board.

But the bill’s au­thor state Rep. Dwayne Bo­hac, R-Hous­ton, said that the agen­cies over­es­ti­mate the cost of House Bill 729 be­cause half of school dis­tricts al­ready teach some sort of char­ac­ter pro­gram.

“Plus, I view it as an in­vest­ment in our chil­dren, be­cause what will hap­pen is stu­dent at­ten­dance lev­els will go up, stu­dent be­hav­ioral and dis­ci­plinary prob­lems will go down and aca­demic achieve­ment will soar. The sci­ence of why chil­dren suc­ceed tells us that it’s par­ent en­gage­ment and char­ac­ter skills that mat­ter the most,” Bo­hac said.

Bo­hac said that par­ents have the most im­por­tant role in build­ing char­ac­ter but schools must con­trib­ute, too. He pointed to stud­ies that have shown that stu­dents who have learned through char­ac­ter pro­grams im­prove on math and read­ing tests, are less likely to be sus­pended and more likely to go to school.

The teach­ing of pos­i­tive char­ac­ter traits cur­rently are re­quired by the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Code. But HB 729 would in­te­grate it into the state cur­ricu­lum and re­quire school dis­tricts and char­ter schools to adopt a char­ac­ter trait pro­gram after ob­tain­ing in­put from the par­ents and teach­ers. The school district would then have to re­port to the TEA each year the pro­gram’s im­pact on stu­dent ab­sences, aca­demics and dis­ci­plinary prob­lems.

A cou­ple of teacher groups told law­mak­ers this week that they sup­ported Bo­hac’s bill be­cause they don’t think it’d be too bur­den­some for pub­lic schools to im­ple­ment such a pro­gram.

“When I was su­per­in­ten­dent, I didn’t like a lot of man­dates out of Austin ei­ther,” David An­thony, who for­merly headed the ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cacy group Raise Your Hand Texas, told law­mak­ers.

“But I do think that some­times when you got a re­ally re­search-based is­sue where it’s not be­ing done, peo­ple need to have to do it.”

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