There is ample evidence the claims of our current Governor, Attorney General and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee about education are absolutely not true. Governor Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick claim slashing funds for public education by 5 billion dollars did not harm education in Texas. In fact they claim Texas actually had an increase in funding in the past two legislative sessions.
Between the miserliness of our state-wide elected leaders and misplaced concern by our State Board of Education, children’s education in Texas is being shortchanged. There is ample evidence of Texas children falling behind the nation and the world in educational excellence.
Recently, both The Dallas Morning News and Austin American Statesman reported the findings of the National College Board concerning SAT scores to be alarming. Texas students’ scores on the SAT, a recognized college entrance exam, dropped to the second lowest point in two decades. The national average of an adequate score was 42.6%. The state score recently was 33.9%. For a long time responsible educators have widely viewed the SAT scores as one of the most valuable measures of whether or not students are receiving quality education prior to college entrance.
The massive slashing of public education funds by the state Legislature resulted in the loss of 11,000 teachers, many of whom left the profession. Balancing the budget on the backs of Texas’ school children not only was callous, but showed a woeful lack of vision for the future. Five billion dollars was slashed from public education while we had nine billion in a bank account for Texas emergencies. If continuing to furnish a decent education to our children is not an emergency, I would like to hear what is.
One of the favorite standard sayings of right-wing conservatives is that you can’t fix education by throwing money at it. My immediate response is how do you know? We have never tried.
While I agree money in order to deliver a decent education is not the only factor, quality education cannot be delivered without it. For about fifteen years Republican conservatives in the state Legislature have maintained that gimmicks and quirks could fix education and deliver quality schooling which would benefit future economic growth and prosperity for Texans. It obviously has not proven true.
Unfortunately, our State Board continues to be more preoccupied with politics, religion, and their own private agendas–even in choosing textbooks–than in delivering a quality product for future generations of Texans. The Republican-dominated Board has failed miserably to be a force for advocating quality education and has never advocated adequate funding. A judge in Austin has recently ruled the level of funding for public education has reached the point of making the entire system unconstitutional. This is not a federal mandate, but a requirement of Texas’ own constitution put in place by our forefathers who had the vision to revere education.
If you think money for teachers is not that important, consider a study done in the mid-nineties by the Senate Education Committee staff. A broad range of school districts–small, large, rural, urban– were surveyed, personally contacting the top ten graduates from a high school in each type of district. They were questioned as to whether or not they would consider a career in teaching. Fewer than 1 in 10 said they would even consider it, primarily because their options for better pay lay elsewhere.
And consider the findings of the Perot Committee. After a nationwide study it became very evident that class size had a dramatic impact on the learning of students being taught. Even though it was determined a 15:1 teacher/pupil ratio was ideal, money required a compromise of 22:1 as a teacher/pupil ratio to be mandated by Texas. Even the compromise number has been further compromised by politicians who care more about bragging about "no new taxes" than ensuring a bright future for the Texas economy and our children.
If we Texans continue to elect those who are guilty of robbing our future generations of decent educational opportunities, we will reap what we sow.