Thursday, July 28, 2016

Party Platforms and Public Education

With the Republican National Convention now behind us and the Democratic National Convention around the corner, it’s time to consider the platforms of each party as they relate to public education.  Of course, as of this writing, the Democratic Party has not published their platform but we can somewhat predict the elements relating to education.  It seems to me that we have become a country of extremes and that has had a polarizing effect on those who considerate themselves to be moderates.  I recall reading a book about how this extremism of political party ideologies has caused so many to pull back, to say that they cannot impact decisions relating to public education.

But we have examples that abound demonstrating that grassroots movements can have an impact and that those who are willing to engage can have a dramatic impact on outcomes.  There is probably no better example of that in Texas than the “revolt” over the number of end of course exams required for graduation.  A group of individuals got together under the umbrella of Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment (TAMSA) and their actions resulted in a reduction in the number of EOC exams from 15 to 5.  Yet another example is the grassroots efforts of a number of superintendents who worked closely with the Legislature to pass HB 5 in the 83rd Legislative Session, giving expanded opportunities to students across the state.  Yes, engagement does work and it begins with a grassroots effort.

With that as a backdrop, I encourage a review of the Republican Party platform, specifically reference to public education.  A summary of the Republic Party platform relating to public education can be found by clicking here.

“Highlights” of the platform include:
·         We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children.
·         We reject a one- size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level.
·         We likewise repeat our long- standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it. Their education reform movement calls for choice-based, parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling.
·         Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education in which all students can reach their potential.
·         Administrators need flexibility to innovate and to hold accountable all those responsible for student performance.
·         We know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement.  Choice in education; building on the basics; STEM subjects and phonics; career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents and locally elected school boards.
·         We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools.  We especially support the innovative funding mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers and tuition tax credits.

It’s now up to each of us to assess how this platform impacts public education in Texas.  There are certainly elements with which I can agree but there are also elements with which I do not agree.  To be effective as public education advocates, we have to first know the facts and then provide valid arguments in support of, or to counter, positions of others.  It won’t be easy but others have proven that i starts with the individual engagement that drives a grassroots movement that then impacts decisions made by our elected officials.  It’s now even more important that we come together to Make Education a Priority.

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