The Dallas Morning News published an editorial on December 3 (click here to read) under the above headline. While not surprising given some of their past editorial content, it was refreshing to continue to see public education in the headlines. But for those who are critics of public education (and we all know who they are), they likely paid little attention to the headline or even bothered to read the article.
I have begun to beat a little bit of a different drum by starting to try to shift the dialog from funding issues, where Texas ranks nationally, etc., to something that I think is more important, specifically outcomes. In fact, the DMN editorial referred to this when they stated, “Improving outcomes in cities like Dallas … requires serious investment. Austin has to do more to help”. But this is not just an Austin problem.
There are efforts underway mandated by the legislature for the State Board of Education to work with a committee of individuals appointed by the SBOE in crafting a Long Range Plan for public education in Texas. As I noted in a prior blog, this effort is targeting four key initiatives. Click here for additional information on that effort and the four key tenets of the committee’s work. Nowhere in their list and definition of each do they suggest that funding is what keeps us from achieving goals and meeting the needs of students. It is certainly implied but not overt. I am not saying that funding is not an issue; I am saying that I believe that changing the conversation will drive a more open dialog.
I applaud the focus of the committee and am cautiously optimistic that yet another effort to set the future for public education might actually become reality. In the same manner, I believe that public education advocates must focus on student outcomes and how those impact the future of the Texas (and global) economy. If we can agree on the intended and desired outcomes (perhaps asking students would be a great start!), we can then work backward to identify resources required to achieve those outcomes. Funding is but one part of that equation as the SBOE list of topics defines.
Equally important is the process of engaging parents, students, community members and business leaders. Simply throwing money will not, as stated in the DMN editorial, provide us with any better way to assess the quality of our public schools. But if we can all agree on outcomes and the role that all stakeholders play in meeting those outcomes, perhaps we will have a better chance of meeting the needs of students.
What we cannot do is continue to be distracted by those whose efforts would create division within the public education community. We must have a consistency of purpose, focus and commitment to making public education a priority for the more than 5.4 million Texas public education students. As the DMN editorial said in its closing sentence, “Our students – and our collective futures – are the biggest losers if we don’t”.