Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Do We Care About the Kids or is Being "Right" More Important?

Much has been written over the past several months about the state and future of public education in Texas.  The Supreme Court ruling acknowledging that our school finance system meets the "minimum constitutional requirements" did at least get the conversation started ... at least for awhile.  In fact, both the Lt. Governor and the Speaker issued interim charges to their respective bodies to look at ways to address what the Supreme Court would not.

The decision by the Supreme Court makes some sense and they opined on the importance of the Legislature addressing the issue rather than having it decided by the state's highest court.  But will legislators act and will they take the responsibility laid at their feet?  Or will they act in a manner that is more self serving than supportive of the more than 5.2 million Texas public education students?  The short answer it that it depends.

I had a conversation recently with a Republican legislator who believes that this will come down to what might be described as a game of chicken, a game that potentially leaves the students as the unwitting victims of a focus on personal agendas.  In the Senate, we can expect to continue to see an emphasis on education savings grants (or vouchers) while the House will continue to try to address the school finance issues that prompted the original suit against the State.  On the one hand, school reform and so-called school choice; on the other, a focus on how to address funding gaps and inequities (including Robin Hood potentially).

But what happens if discussions stall on both fronts because neither chamber is willing to concede or compromise?  How does that help the students?  And, more importantly, how does that address those campuses who are not fully meeting the needs of their students.  Some would consider these to be failing schools.  For my part, I view them as opportunities to invest, to find ways to improve the quality of education so that all students have the opportunity to learn and to succeed.

Will those in the legislature have the will to ensure educational opportunities for all students?  More than ever, now is the time for public education advocates to make certain that their voices are heard.  After all, we are speaking for the 5.2 million plus students across the state.  We must speak up to Make Education a Priority.

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