Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why is School Funding a Political Issue?

Recently, a number of articles have been published about school finance funding, including one I read that can be found by clicking here.  What troubles me most about many of these articles is that the debate is not about the adequacy or equity of funding but how the funding issue aligns with a particular party platform.  Sure, I acknowledge the need for our political parties to have a platform and to adopt a stance on specific issues.  But is it fair to hold students as hostages in the debate over the adequacy of school funding?  The State of Texas has a constitutional obligation to support a public education system but many elected officials and business “leaders” continue to push to dismantle a system that has largely proven to be a tremendous success across the state. 

Whatever happened to the day when the issues that were debated actually looked at the impact on the stakeholders resulting from specific actions?  Much has been written and debated about public education but rarely is the focus on the students in the classroom or the teachers dedicated to delivering a quality education to the more than 5.2 million public education students in Texas.

Instead, political and personal agendas seem to drive much of the discussion.  Those who advocate for finding options to public schools quote statistics that are often an extremely small subset of the overall public education system.  While some, including those in Austin, focus on what they label as chronically underperforming campuses, they fail to note that those campuses or districts that are failing to meet standards represent a very small percentage of the overall campus population. 

I’ve written previously about the need to invest in public education and the fact that, unlike any business non-profit or other organization, the road to success is found in the level of investment and commitment made to that entity.  It’s time we acknowledge this and look at the bigger picture of public education rather than simply isolate the “hot spots” and label those as representative of the overall student population.  I also read a recent article by a Texas economist on the value of a dollar invested in public education (more on that in a separate blog).

Imagine what could happen if we all came together and committed ourselves to the cause of public education.  Even those who promote options to public education would come to realize that the problem is not the system itself but the lack of a commitment to fully funding a system growing by more than 80,000 students annually.  All of us should band together to Make Education a Priority, regardless of our political affiliation our platform.

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