I couldn’t help but notice two related stories in the Austin American-Statesman today, both dealing with funding our public schools.
Now as it turns out, there is a school district that I have never heard of, mainly because it operates entirely within
’s state prison system. They have 77,000 students and 1300 employees. And in the current budget, this district gets $128 million. Texas
Now before you go tsk-tsking about this, do the math.
That’s a 59 to 1 student-teacher ratio. Probably more. And they spend $1662 per student.
But Florence Shapiro, a former classroom teacher herself, thinks this is a waste of money. True, they don’t teach rocket science, it’s mainly so inmates can get GEDs and vocational certificates, but it would appear to this teacher that this program is very proper in a prison system that seeks true rehabilitation and not just retribution.
Because it seems to me that these inmates are where they are precisely because of their lack of education and skills. These are the people who cut classes and eventually dropped out of school and inevitably ended up on the wrong side of the law.
And these are the people we are going to make more of when the state cuts the public education budget.
You see, there is another side to this. The reason Florence Shapiro doesn’t think much of this system is because she says it is a waste of money and the GEDs and certificates are worthless.
And because she wants to give that $128 million to public education.
In fact, in this second article, it seems that she and other state senators want to increase the size of the slice of the budget that public education gets by $6 billion. Giving TEA Education Commissioner Robert Scott everything he asked for.
So these are the kinds of decisions we have to make, literally whether it would be better to cut off your left hand or your right foot because one of them has got to go.
Do we eliminate a school program in our prison system giving the inmates no tools or skills to succeed outside of a criminal life? Or do we do massive cuts in public education and run the risk of increasing our prison population? Or worse, because the prison system will also be cut back, run the risk of having more criminals in the state out free because there isn’t room for them in prison?
It’s a devil’s dilemma.