EDITORIAL: Funding proposal could hurt grading integrity

Texas legislators put their heart in the right place when they looked to public education leaders for advice on a new system for funding community colleges. But the current proposal leaves us with some questions.

This near-final draft of restructured state funding by the Texas Commission on Community College Finance plans to increase the amount of money available to community colleges but will distribute it based on the achievement of certain student milestones.

The relationship between proper funding and student success is a strong one. Colleges working to create quality education without being concerned about finances sounds like a dream, but what hoops will need to be jumped through to get to that point?

The current system for funding community colleges is long overdue for replacement. Currently, Texas community colleges receive money from property taxes, tuition and state funding. Unfortunately, state funds make up less than 25% of that equation.

Schools with lower enrollment struggle to keep up with the more populous institutions, especially when state funds aren’t doing enough to supplement them. When it comes to splitting the pot, we’re aware that there’s no such thing as a perfect solution. We trust that the proposal is trying to create the best scenario possible. But for a proposal focused on numbers, it overlooks the reasons behind them and how faculty might be pressured to meet unrealistic goals.

Community colleges are often populated with students who must make ends meet. They balance grades on top of jobs, bills and other adult responsibilities. Most caught in this circumstance take fewer classes or let grades slip when other commitments take priority.

If a student is not able to commit the time needed to pass a class, but the college’s funding is based on their completion, it feels like only a matter of time before the marching orders come down on faculty.

Safeguards need to be put into place to protect instructors from the pressure to push students through courses when they are not ready. If quality education is the main concern in this funding proposal, all nuances of these changes need to be properly addressed.

Students deserve a sufficient education and faculty shouldn’t be compelled into passing underprepared students simply to meet certain marks.

The right way to go about performance-based funding is to make sure everyone plays on the same level, not to pressure teachers to push students down a pipeline.

The funding proposal sounds good on paper, but the state legislature needs to take account of the pressures this could put on the people who are meant to prepare us for our futures. An ill equipped workforce would be a disservice to everyone.