Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Free Education is Not Free

Imagine my surprise this morning to read in this article at the Austin American-Statesman that Bill Hammond, who heads up the Texas Association of Business, a pro-business lobby, was slated to speak at the rally to save Texas’ schools earlier this month. True, the rally was billed as bipartisan, but still . . . Bill Hammond? TAB? Pro-education?

Education is just about the biggest drain on Texas’ budget. Business, I thought, eschews the payment of taxes, taxes that fund education.

So I was surprised.

Not surprised that he ginned up an excuse to get out of speaking at the rally by claiming a bum knee acted up that day. I attended the rally with one as well, and lived to tell the tale. Attendees at the rally were clearly partisan, and clearly laid the blame for the possibility of the demise of public education in Texas squarely at the feet of Rick Perry. This would not look good for Bill Hammond to appear in front of that crowd.

So why was he on the speakers’ list anyway? Well, as the article explains, Bill Hammond is self-interested, as all business people are, and wants educated people in Texas so that business can thrive.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“Hammond, a former business owner and Republican lawmaker from Dallas, is accustomed to steering the state business organization between its support for Perry and his fervent belief that now is not the time to short-change public or higher education.”

“Hammond, who's been interested in public education since his days as a lawmaker in the 1980s, has added higher education to his list of concerns for the state's future workforce.”

“‘If we don't have an educated workforce, the jobs will leave,’ Hammond said. ‘We are not meeting the needs of the future.’”

On the other hand, if you read further on down, you wonder just how Hammond thinks it is possible to be in favor of fully funding education without coming up with new taxes and/or fees to pay for it. A free public education is anything but free.

Hammond says he hasn't changed his political stripes. He's still opposed to raising taxes and increasing or creating fees. But his proposition that state funding should be kept level for the next two years contrasts with a Legislature that is contemplating deep budget cuts and layoffs.”
It really is elementary. The reason the state lacks the funds to fully pay for the education of its own schoolchildren is because the state has failed, since 2006, to collect enough revenue to pay for it. It is now time to realize this simple fact. It is now time to redraw how education gets funded and make sure that this looming crisis in education doesn’t happen or happen again in the future.

Because a free education is anything but free.

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