Last month, Will Hurd, who is running for Congress in District 23 (which includes western Bexar County and miles and miles of West Texas), met students from BASIS San Antonio at Choose to Succeed‘s quarterly convening of charter school leaders and community members. He was impressed by what he saw: “I talked to the eighth graders, but I thought they were in high school. They are taking Chemistry already. BASIS is like a Jedi academy.”
Recently, Hurd took a moment to talk to me on the phone about education issues. His career background is undercover CIA work in the Middle East and South Asia, followed by cybersecurity consulting, but he also has a history of community involvement in education and is well versed on the issues.
Hurd quickly drew a connection between national security and education. He believes we need to fix our education system as soon as possible, otherwise our nation may decline. “We need to produce the next generation of undercover CIA agents, doctors, entrepreneurs, etc.” Education is an economic development issue; it’s the best way to move people up the ladder out of poverty.
How do we fix our education system? Hurd has some ideas:
- Parents are the ones who are the most concerned about getting a good education for their children. Elected officials and community leaders need to listen to parents, and give parents the tools they need to make education work better.
- Local control matters. Yes, all students are learning the same kinds of math problems, but the teachers and principals in each community will know what teaching methods work best there. Federal programs with one-size-fits-all solutions are not constructive.
- School principals need the flexibility and control to make changes on their own campuses.
- There are too many geographic barriers that keep people locked in poverty. We need to break down these barriers so people can go outside their neighborhoods to find a better school or get a better-paying job.
- School districts have been raising concerns about spending cuts; meanwhile, some charter schools are getting better results with smaller budgets. School districts should look at what works at charter schools and borrow those best practices. High-performing charter schools should multiply.
Hurd wants to see charter schools and district schools co-exist. He has longstanding ties to Northside ISD. Hurd graduated from John Marshall High School before going on to earn a degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University. In 2011, Hurd represented “trustworthiness” (a former CIA agent . . . yes, he appreciates the irony) in the Northside ISD Pillars of Character program. Hurd currently serves on the advisory board of an elementary school in Northside ISD and meets quarterly with the school leadership.
Serving on the advisory board has given Hurd an appreciation of the real-world challenges the students face. But he feels that we need to raise our expectations for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. He shared a story about visiting a friend who teaches English to sophomores in a low-income, high-crime area of Dallas. She invited him to talk to her class about politics and leadership. The students had just read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. One student asked the classic Machiavelli question: Is it better to be feared than loved? Another student responded by quoting the Napoleon character. Hurd’s friend, a talented teacher, led her students to think deeply about the material and have a meaningful discussion.
The growth of school choice options in San Antonio is a hopeful sign, Hurd believes. Philanthropy and entrepreneurship are part of what makes America special. Also, he adds, “Any issue that gets Senator Ted Cruz and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on the same stage together must be important.” (He is referring to the kickoff of National School Choice Week—more about that in this earlier post.)
Early voting begins February 18, 2014, and the primary election is March 4, 2014; get more information from the Bexar County Elections Department or the Medina County Elections Department. Not sure which congressional district you live in? Check Find Your Representative.
Hurd recently received the endorsement of the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. “Will Hurd, Lamar Smith right picks for GOP”, San Antonio Express-News, February 10, 2014. See also “The second coming of Will Hurd in District 23”, Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News, June 4, 2013.
Want to learn more about BASIS San Antonio, the charter school that Hurd referred to as a “Jedi academy”? See this earlier post about the dedication ceremony at BASIS San Antonio. Also, BASIS San Antonio North is holding an information session this Thursday, as mentioned in this earlier post.
Do you have an education question for Will Hurd? Leave a comment, and then he can come back and take a look.