Thursday, January 20, 2011

Republican Slash and Burn Mentality Evokes Buyer’s Remorse

Poised with torches to burn the rainforest that is our public education system in Texas, Republicans today got their SmartPhones out and called up the four-function calculator app, and did a little addition.

And they didn’t seem like how things were adding up.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, fumed that Ranger College in his district was one of four community colleges that had been eliminated as part of the $156 billion bare-bones proposal released to legislators late Tuesday.”

“’We have shown for the first time a closure of community colleges. To me, that is the height of irresponsibility,’ Keffer said. ‘You have put the four of us already on the defensive.’”

A sea of firsts, I think. The first time that Texas will be entering a new decade with a whole host of school textbooks to adopt, and no funds to buy them with. Rubbing salt into the wound, Democrats in the state legislature pointed out that
“...the budget proposal pretends that the 170,000 new students expected in Texas classrooms just won't materialize. Nor was money included to pay for new textbooks or supplemental science materials that are needed to prepare high schools for the upcoming end-of-course exams.”
State Senator Florence Shapiro (R – Plano) who chairs the Senate Education committee, herself an ex-classroom teacher seemed to agree in her statement to the first meeting of the newly assembled State School Board:

“People will use this budget crisis as an excuse, an excuse to abandon some of our high expectations ... an excuse to abandon some of the progress you and we in the Legislature have made ... an excuse to not continue raising that bar. Let's not do that.”
This seems to be a pushback to what I have been hearing from a few school boards, that if there is such a huge cutback in state funding, that state-mandated programs and requirements should also be cut back. One cannot mandate a thing with one hand, and then snatch back the money to carry that mandate out with the other.

And then finally there is the class size controversy. Susan Combs proposes relaxation of the K-4 class size cap, a move that could save the state $558 million in teachers’ salaries, giving Texas opportunity to deliver thousands more to the unemployment rolls. All State Senator Shapiro will say about that is “It is going to be very contentious. . . “


Ironically, Education Secretary Arne Duncan seems to be in favor of larger class size, citing the fact that they have larger class sizes in Asia and that Asian students typically perform better than American students. Neglecting to mention that they spend more hours per day and more days per year in school than their American counterparts.

So there you have it. Between House District territoriality, actual concern for students, education and the future Texas workforce, bean counters, and smoke and mirrors, it is going to be anyone’s guess how this will all come out in the wash.

My guess: the school districts that value education will step up and raise taxes. The ones that don’t will step up and raise a new ignorant generation lacking skills to succeed let alone attend college.

Not that they’d be able to afford it . . .

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