Monday, September 28, 2015


There is an oft-repeated old saying that 'when leaders lack vision, the people perish.'  I’ve known for a long time that our ability to see things on earth is limited by the curvature of the earth.  I also learned while in the Naval Officer Candidate School that you can see for 15 miles from the bridge of a destroyer.  Clearly, the higher you are elevated, the further you can see. 

Unfortunately, this does not necessarily seem to apply to the height of political office which one has reached.

It seems too many of our leaders in high office in Texas either can’t or refuse to look into the future — particularly as to education.  Many business leaders in Texas have recently come to the realization that we are becoming more and more ill-prepared to meet the requirements of an educated workforce necessary for a profitable future.  While almost all Texas politicians promise and espouse first-class education, obviously too many are ready to sacrifice quality education on the altar of austere budgets.  Instead of funding education first in Texas we are too often met with platitudes, outright false statements, or off-the-wall ideas for quick fixes to our educational shortcomings.

The most prevalent motto of those who want to shortchange public education in Texas is, “You can’t fix it by throwing money at it.”  The quick response is, “In Texas, no one has ever tried.”  Although money may not be all of the answer, you certainly cannot have quality education without adequate funding.  Texans should ask themselves — after repeated findings by various courts that Texas public education funding does not meet constitutional standards — "why does the Legislature insist on waiting for yet another court finding?" 

In higher education the Legislature has made it more and more difficult for Texans of all stripes to receive a college education.  Probably the biggest impediment occurred when the Legislature gave away its own power for setting college tuition and delegated it to various boards of regents.  If you want to talk about taxation without representation, this is a fine example.  Nobody gets to vote on the regents who set the cost of educating our college-bound children.  College tuition has more than quadrupled since that time, and we are met with few real answers about how to improve the situation.  Rick Perry, for example, keeps touting his plan for a $10,000 education.  More than likely, our colleges could provide a $5,000 education, but it would not prepare young Texans for the requirements of future employment.  Additionally, it would not give the broad perspective to college graduates which we expect from colleges of national reputation.

The business community has recently issued a number of warnings concerning future preparation of the Texas workforce.  A recent article published in numerous papers around the country has caused some of our leaders to propose a 60/30 plan.  This would provide that 60% of our population receive a postgraduate degree by the year 2030.  Studies reveal, for example, that the number of post-graduate degree holders in Texas lags behind California by several percentage points.  Texas lags behind the national average by 2-3 points, and is only ranking that high because of in-migration of workers from other parts of the nation.  I certainly ascribe to the 60/30 plan and believe it to be a bold, forward thinking plan.  Unfortunately, a 60/30 plan, or even a 50/50 plan, would not work unless our elected leadership in this state develops a different attitude about public and higher education.  Funding education on the cheap will only result in Texas continuing to lead the nation in poor folks.

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