The Republicans in the Texas Legislature that underfunded public education by almost $6 billion dollars over the current biennium have no intention of ever putting that money back, no matter how much the economy improves. That’s a political reality that everyone must understand as we continue to discuss public education during this election and the upcoming legislative session.
They haven’t been fighting for decades to destroy public education, finally do what they’ve been intending, just to turn around and reverse course two years later. The next play in the playbook will be instead to try and use a voucher scheme to “save” money in public education. Evidence Friday’s Senate Education Committee hearing, which is currently without a chair.
At that hearing on Friday two think tanks with ties to ALEC (Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and Heartland Institute) testified in favor of school vouchers in Texas. It was full of the usual when privatization is discussed phantom savings, which can no longer be believed. The GOP will try to use their donor’s corporate backed think tanks as justification for the phantom savings in order to never put the $6 billion from last session back into public education. From the Texas Tribune, Senate Hearing Tackles Vouchers, School Choice.
In a preview of a likely battle in the upcoming legislative session, state lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee on Friday heard testimony on school choice programs, including vouchers that would allow students to use public money to attend private schools.
When asked how accountability would work under a voucher program, Matthew Ladner, a fellow at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said it was important to remember that school choice was “an opt out of the public school system instead of an extension of the public school system into the private school.”
Private schools operate under a bottom-up rather than a top-down accountability system, he said. “Parents can pick up and leave” if they feel their children aren’t being adequately served, he said.
Joe Bast of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, among several national witnesses at the hearing, detailed a voucher program he called a “taxpayer savings grant” that he said would result in a savings to the state of $2 billion over the next biennium by giving about $5,200 to each student to attend private schools. He estimated that just under 7 percent of students would take advantage of it. The greater demand for private education would help increase teacher pay, he said, and result in better productivity in public schools.
Senator’s Royce West, Wendy Davis and others were to point out the problems with vouchers and charter schools, Texas senators begin debate on private-school vouchers.
Members of the Senate Education Committee heard from advocates for programs that allow parents to take part of what the state would spend to educate their children in public schools and use it to cover tuition at private ones.
They also listened to groups wanting to ease the current cap of 215 charter schools licensed to operate in Texas.
“We need to look at this as more of a free-market system,” said Andrew Erben, president of the Texas Institute for Education Reform, who compared today’s schools to a ball bearing factory where authorities establish a single set of regulations and hope all kids come out the same.
Erben, whose group represents business interests, said: “We need to let parents and students decide by giving them more options.”
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, noted that Erben’s institute has called for ending bilingual education programs and scrapping a state-imposed maximum of 22 students per elementary school classroom. Erben believes that Texas already spends more than enough on public education, West said.
Erben replied that “spending nearly $50 billion in the aggregate is more than adequate.” Royce shot back, “We cut about $5 billion from our school finance system. You still think it’s adequate?”
In 2011, state lawmakers cut $4 billion from public school funding and $1.4 billion from grant programs, even though Texas’ booming population means enrollment is surging.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said private schools can pick which students they want, meaning that greater school choice may ensure that the only students left in traditional schools are those who will be rejected by private ones or whose parents are too poor to help pay for schooling.
Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said that while 400 to 500 new charter schools open per year nationwide, only about 7 percent of those up for renewal close, meaning that many subpar schools continue to operate.
Rita Haecker, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said, “So-called ‘choice’ programs offer no real choice for the overwhelming majority of students.”
The final nail might be what Gov. Rick Perry did today, Rick Perry Appoints Tea Partier Michael Williams to Head Job at TEA.
What a mean way to kick off the school year: Governor Rick Perry has appointed former Railroad Commissioner and failed Congressional candidate Michael Williams to the top job at the Texas Education Agency.
Williams recently shopped around for a Congressional district after pulling out of Republican US Senate Primary, landing in CD-25 where he failed to even make the run-off. The former Railroad Commissioner — aka shill for the oil and gas industry — will take over for former head Robert Scott, who left last month after five years at the TEA. Scott spoke openly about the “perversion” of our public school system’s high-stakes testing system.
Michael Williams has little-to-no background on education policy. His Congressional campaign website does not list education on his “Issues” page. Instead, he seems primarily obsessed with slashing taxes and cutting revenue, and repealing Obamacare.
It is unlikely given his background that Williams will oppose the $4 billion cut from public schools last legislative session, or play any role in finding legitimate solutions to funding our public schools and enrollment growth, and preventing our school districts from hemorrhaging education workers.
Why in the world would Gov. Perry put someone with no education experience in charge of education? What it means is that Perry probably cares little about education and what happens with it going forward. Privatizing education is the next step.
This is their plan. Anyone who still expects the GOP in Texas – people who believe government is the problem – to use it to help people is fooling themselves. It’s been said a thousand times. Nothing will change until we change who runs our state.
[UPDATE]: Kuff has more, Perry gives another middle finger to public education, including this statement from Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston).
AUSTIN – “I do not know what serving twelve years as Railroad Commissioner and two attempts at federal office have to do with knowledge about Texas public schools. But, I do know that being friends with Governor Perry seems to mean one is never out of a job for long. If I was starting up an oil and gas company in Texas, I might call Michael Williams to run it. But, I would never think to call Michael Williams to try to run Texas’ public schools. Should this appointment occur, let it be known once again that the educational system in Texas is at pivotal point, and Texans can not afford to hold on-the-job training classes for the person in charge.”