With the primaries now behind us and many races for House and Senate seats decided in the primaries, it’s time for public education advocates to get down to work. We already know that there will be a renewed focus on vouchers in the 84th session, whether they are called vouchers or another name. But the reality is that there is a push for privatization and moving dollars out of our public schools to other options.
While I have written before about what I perceive as the fallacies in some of the arguments suggesting a need to look at options other than public schools, the bottom line is that we have to do what is best for the 5.3 million Texas public education students, 93% of whom are educated in our local public schools. This suggests to me that there is room for private schools and charters but not at the expense of public education and, in the case of charter schools, not without transparency surrounding admission (and expulsion) policies and accountability for result in those schools. Public dollars are being expended and it is right for us as taxpayers to demand the same transparency and accountability that we have in our public schools.
Back to the question at hand … Now that the primaries are over, what next? First and foremost, we must continue our push to communicate with policymakers and they know our position on all things education. There is a tremendous story to be told about the Texas public education product but the naysayers would have us believe that we have a plethora of failing public schools. I don’t deny that there are areas where we have problems but those problems are not solved by running from the problem. None of us were raised to run when faced with challenges; why do some think that is the right response to challenges in our system.
We have approximately 10 months until the 84th session convenes in January, 2017. Incumbents, newly “elected” legislators via a primary vote where there is no opposition from the other party, and those who will be elected in May will have a great deal of work to do preparing for the next session. As public education advocates, now is the time to reach out to your local officials, engage them in a discussion about public education and do your part to communicate the positive message about what we see every day in our public schools.
Education will be one of the main topics of the next session, along with health care and transportation, among others. And depending on what happens with the price of oil, a factor that could potentially have a significant financial impact on the State, there will be strong posturing to convince legislators on how dollars should be allocated. With a base of more than 7000 locally elected trustees, we have the opportunity, through advocacy with locally elected officials, to push to Make Education a Priority.