I’ve often said the most important thing Texas government does is to provide educational opportunities for Texans and their children. I am still of that opinion even though there are those in this state who would abolish public education in favor of privatization of our schools.
The very future of this state, as well as this country, depends on how well educated future generations are. The key to a prosperous future for all of us is to be well prepared with an abundance of educational opportunities and demand the educational opportunities offered are of the highest quality and in keeping with the future needs of our economy and social interests.
The Legislature’s cuts to public education in the range of five billion dollars and ignoring the results of a lawsuit where the court found that Texas’ provisions for public education did not meet our constitutional mandate are all foreboding. Even more foreboding is the ever upward spiral of the cost of higher education. Since the Legislature abandoned its role of setting college tuition in our state and failed to adequately fund our colleges and universities, college tuition has more than quadrupled for most state colleges.
I’m also chagrined at the fact that too many of our legislators continue to advocate lowering the standard saying it is discouraging to students to not be able to do well enough on standardized tests or college entrance exams. They suggest lowering the standard instead of redoubling our efforts to get our students up to speed. It seems that advocates of lower standards would take lessons from winning coaches who continually raise the bar at practice and the requirements to join the team in seeking winners. Students who are coddled and simply pushed through any educational process will sooner or later be sorely disappointed when they face the challenges of the real world. Employers will not lower the standards, and as I have often told graduating classes to whom I speak, you may set out to conquer the world but you should be advised that the world fights back.
Preparing for future quality education in this state requires not only a financial commitment but a commitment to look with long-term perspectives. One thing which should be observed, monitored and responded to is the demographics of the future population of this state which tells us much about where and what our future educational needs are and will be.
Something which should be studied are the following facts. There are 5,215,282 students in our public school system in Texas. Of those 2,714,266, or 52%, are Hispanic. There are more than 659,000 African Americans, 202,000 Asians, and 1,500,000 Caucasians in our current system. Of these, 51.2% of our school population are considered at risk. Almost 60% are economically disadvantaged. Of all of these populations, only 7.6% are considered gifted and talented.
Texas' SAT scores have hit a 22 year low. Scores have declined overall by nine points. In math they have dropped six points. A perfect score for math is 800—Texas' average SAT score in math is 470. This is a sad commentary on how well Texas education is preparing our young people.
Our system will only get better when parents and non-parents start demanding more of our Legislature for education. We must do more to fund education and demand that it is well spent. We must demand lower college tuition to enable more to gain the knowledge necessary for a futuristic economy in our state, and one which will compete well in the world. Unless we present-day Texans do these things, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will not inherit the opportunity to live a better world as we did.