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Sun

17

Aug

2008

Under Bush Khristian GOP Idiocy : Number Of Uneducated U.S. Children Increases
Sunday, 17 August 2008 19:53
by Peter Stern

Is anyone willingly to initiate the long-needed changes to our public education system, which includes providing adequate financing, correcting mismanagement, financial misappropriations, modifying and developing REAL learning outcomes and trimming the "fat" in each district to give every American child a quality education? Or do our leaders still want to keep the majority of our children uneducated and unemployable?

While the American education system has been a long-time disappoint over the past several decades [under both parties] apparently legislators continue to decrease the state’s responsibility for public schools by $1.5 billion. Lawmakers highlight the reason as "...because of growth of local property tax values." Never mind that property values increase every year mostly because local districts are continually forced by the state to raise property taxes to replace more of the state’s share of responsibility. Property tax increases based on increasing home values are the easiest way for school and local tax districts to provide financing for public schools. Catch-22 anyone?

Yet we’re told in the same breath by lawmakers: "Net state spending on public schools would increase $2.4 billion, according to the House plan." Sounds like officials are playing monetary diversion tactics AGAIN by moving around our tax dollars. They take away money from one area and divert it to another, making it look as though the Legislature acted responsibly to its constitutional obligation to provide our children with a quality education. Yet nothing is further from the truth.

I’ve long pontificated that if the state doesn’t want to assume its constitutional responsibility to provide a quality education to every child, then legislators need to change the law. Some lawmakers appear to be looking at doing just that. Enter privatization.

Currently, the state is guilty of violating its mandated responsibility to local government, parents and their children. Personally, while generally I am against more government interference and control, I advocate a class-action lawsuit against the state by parents and educators. Seems like any effort to resolve an educational issue in this state has resulted from the judicial and not the legislative system.

Texas is a key example for the rest of the nation of the education crisis. If legislators want to privatize education, that’s fine only if taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for it. Otherwise, legislators simply are looking to cover their own butts for not providing the appropriate and adequate financing during the past decade. Case in point: It is the Legislature that has created the current emergency plight of public education by having forced the court 17 years ago to set up an emergency financing system that ensures educational inequality among economic classes and is doomed to fail. Dubbed ironically the "Robin Hood" clause, it takes tax dollars from "wealthy" districts and gives it to "poor" districts. Perhaps we should rename it the "Tinkerbelle" clause because only magical pixie dust could make such an absurd system work.

However, if privatization of public education is our next step, legislators had better put into place a well-structured regulated system of tuition and finance costs. We need only observe what has occurred under the recent deregulation of higher education tuition costs to note the critical nature of this issue.

Privatization of public education brings along a whole set of other issues and problems. Ongoing legislative inept special interest short-term thinking is incapable of determining and implementing an entirely new educational system. In addition, operating two parallel educational systems under the state rubric, public and private, is doomed for failure. If the state cannot successfully manage one system, how is it possible for it to manage two?

However, if the real concern is to educate every child equally (which of course it isn’t), then privatization is NOT the educational road to recovery. Privatizing education will merely ensure the inequality between the "haves" and the "have-nots" within our society.

Furthermore, the Legislature and Texas Communities also had better start thinking about what they will do with the large population of children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their children’s private education. They need to bear in mind that jail systems and welfare programs often cost significantly more than does public education.

Privatizing education is another misguided special interest notion legislators have selected so they don’t have to assume the constitutional responsibility they have been diverting for the past decade. Isn’t it clear yet to everyone that legislators, business folks, and other special interests are NOT the groups needed to develop a quality functional public school system? Certainly, they have proven beyond a doubt that they are incapable of doing so.

What if we put one of Gov. Perry’s proposed toll booths at the entrance-way of our State Capitol Building so that legislators and special interest visitors must pay a toll tax on their inertia regarding Public School Financing?

The insider poop is that school finance will NOT be resolved in the current legislative session or in the immediate future — and why should it? After all, after one decade of the infamous "Robin Hood" clause on property taxes, apparently few want public education to succeed. Homeowners have shouldered the brunt of financing schools while the state’s mandated constitutional share has diminished visibly every year.

Currently, the state pays 30-percent of the financing plan. One decade ago it paid 70 percent. There in part lies the tragedy. The reason legislators don’t resolve public school issues is that they don’t want public schools to succeed.

Special interests, e.g., Dr. James Leininger, many large Texas businesses, CEO Bill Hammond (Texas Association of Business) and others — while feigning interest — are motivated to alienate and/or shut-down public schools. Leininger wants a school voucher program, Hammond wants class sizes to increase to save on paying teacher salaries, and big business just doesn’t want to pay a fair share "tax" for educating our children and the future Texas workforce. The governor and various officials are receiving wealthy special interest campaign contributions for going through the motions without actually administering the cure for public education’s ills.

Heck, just four years ago Gov. Perry proclaimed publicly that there was no public school emergency in Texas! Now, after being reelected this past November by a paltry 39 percent of the total votes, the governor, using "smoke and mirrors" continues to call for resolutions and legislative actions that he knows well in advance will lead nowhere. But he gets himself "off the hook" and points his fingers at the Legislature, as if they alone are the culprits.

As for placing the toll booth before the Capitol entrance, it is the most fitting monument to our legislators for having built a road that goes nowhere, especially in resolving those five-year-old urgent issues — number one on that list is how to finance public education adequately with alternate sources, while providing the majority of Texas children with a quality education.

Isn’t it clear by now to Texas voters that no urgent community issue will be resolved until we get rid of Gov. "39-percent," vote-in a new governor, remove Perry’s appointed Texas Education Agency (TEA) and replace incumbent special interest legislators?

Not only aren’t Texans getting their money’s worth from the state in providing their children with a quality education, a study shows that Texans are paying twice for education — that’s more of our tax dollars NOT at work! The San Antonio Business Journal discusses a study released by the Alliance For Excellent Education (www.all4ed.org/about/index.html) that shows many college students are retaking courses they should have passed in high school. (sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2006/08/28/daily15.html ) In college these are termed "remedial" courses and students cannot take their required college courses until the remedial courses are passed.

According to the article, "The state of Texas is spending more than $88 million a year to provide community college students remedial education, according to a report released Tuesday." Apparently public schools, students, and parents aren’t doing their jobs, so taxpayers are paying twice for many students in college to take the same course again.

Before entering college tests are given to review an individual’s aptitude in the basics: English (reading and writing), Math and often General Science. If the scores are below average, the student must strengthen the lack of ability by taking a non-matriculated course (one that doesn’t offer credit towards a degree).

In addition it is obvious that legislators and the so-called "great minds of Texas" are failing public education and our children by setting up standards for success based mostly on passing state exams. What good are such test goals if our children continue to do poorly in the basic subjects?

More simply stated, what happens to kids who continue to fail a difficult state exam that most legislators themselves couldn’t pass? Maybe they can become state officials?

And what happens to the kids who can pass the exam but remains below average in reading, writing and math?

One fact is certain. Until public education gets more input from more knowledgeable thinkers better equipped to resolve the urgent issues without any consideration of reprisals by special interests, and who among other things will enable schools to reduce class sizes at all levels and provide more meaningful learning experiences and outcomes, more children will continue to fall through the cracks, and the quality of education will NOT improve.

We are doing our own children a great disservice by permitting committees of legislators and members of the business community to avoid the REAL issues.

If lawmakers would set REALISTIC and TANGIBLE guidelines for educational goals in a joint effort with school administrators and educators, we might finally be able to resolve some long-term educational issues. More and more it appears that our leaders want to keep the status quo. —

Peter Stern of Driftwood, Texas, a former Director of Information Services, University Professor and Public School Administrator, is a political writer well-known and published frequently throughout the Texas community and nationwide. He is a Disabled Vietnam Veteran and holds three post-graduate degrees.
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