January 19, 2018

Remember Texas Education

By Glenn

Long ago, coal miners learned to take a canary with them into the dark.  Digging for coal released methane, a silent killer.  The small canaries suffered the negative effects of the gas much faster than the miners.  Seeing the dead canary prompted the miners to survive a near certain death.  If you value public education today, look around and see the canaries before it’s too late.

Last session the Texas legislature tried to quietly defund the health insurance for retired teachers.  Teachers often work for long hours and poor pay in exchange for retirement security.  It came as a surprise when the legislature broke its promise to retired teachers, raising premiums and out of pocket expenses.  Fearing a wave of angry voters, the legislature delayed the price increase for health insurance.

These “cost saving” gimmicks have directly impacted students too.   Last week the Department of Education ruled that the Texas Education Agency illegally denied children with disabilities an education.  Mike Morath, appointed by Governor Greg Abbott, placed a capped on the number of children served.  This change forced local school districts to deny services to children who needed help.

If Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick get his way, this situation will get worse.  Patrick is pushing the Texas Legislature to approve a voucher scheme.  Vouchers would divert public funding away from our schools to private investors.  Private investors would be free to cut pay, restrict retirement benefits and, most importantly, deny an education to all students.

All of these measures are done in the name of saving money and cutting red tape.  Abbott and Patrick refuse, however, to consider the one thing that will actually save money and improve Texas public education. Stop wasting money on standardized tests. Texans pay over $90 million a year to terrorize teachers and students.  Indirectly, the Legislature forces every Independent School District to prepare and administer these bubbling exercises.

Each of these canaries should warn us of dangers ahead.  The conservatives in the Texas Legislature are determined to follow the lead of Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.  Each of these states cut taxes, creating a funding crisis in public education.  Governor Abbot wants to take away our local ISDs ability to fund themselves by capping the overall revenue collected in each district.  This change would impose a one size fits all across Texas.

The results in Texas will be no different than in Kansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.   Class sizes would increase.  Art and music programs would suffer.  Teachers would face furloughs and job losses.  Parents might even find themselves paying extra for daycare on Fridays as school districts shift to four day weeks.

The carnies are dropping all around us.  The survivability of Texas public education depends upon us seeing the dying canaries and taking action.  Our Texas founding fathers had the foresight to guarantee public education in our constitution.  They wrote, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”   Do we defend this right, or do we forget the sacrifices of the Alamo?

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