Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Need for a Balanced Public Education Discussion

How do we rationalize the differences in views about public education between the Senate and the House?  All of the individuals elected to represent us have an ability to understand the impact that public education has, not just on the 5.2 million students in the state but on the long term growth of the state’s economy.  But the desire to do so is often in question.  I find myself constantly challenged by how the views of the two bodies are so widely different.

As I sit today watching the joint Appropriations/Public Education committee meeting, and having viewed part of the recent Senate Education hearing, it all boils down to one word … agendas.  While the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House both issued interim charges in response to the Supreme Court decision regarding school finance, they certainly did so with different motivation. 

The Lt. Governor has for the past couple of sessions promoted a pro-voucher effort (by any name) and seems unwilling to listen to arguments that challenge the feasibility and impact of such programs.  There is little to no discussion about the lack of a level playing field relating to public school options, where the requirements relating to accountability and student selection/enrollment (and disenrollment) are not in line with those required of public education; that seems to matter little to the Lt. Governor.

Responding to an interim charge by the Speaker, the House, on the other hand, is demonstrating a far greater willingness to discuss these issues and to consider the impact of decisions made in Austin.  I challenged the witness list at a recent Senate hearing on vouchers as being terribly biased in favor of vouchers (by any name); that is certainly the prerogative of the committee chair.  Today’s House joint hearing seems to me to have a little more balance, if for no other reason than the participation of TEA and the Legislative Budget Board.  What comes of this two-day hearing remains to be seen but I am hopeful that the House will continue to focus on what I snecessary to Make Education a Priority.

My thanks to Chairman Otto and Chairman Aycock for their leadership and for making an effort to look at both sides of the public education debate.  While certainly not realistic to expect that the House will fully support the platforms of public education advocates, they are at least making an effort to have a balanced and engaged discussion.  For that, the students in Texas are grateful.  It is now up to all of us to ensure that the discussion remains a fair and balanced one. 

1 comment:

  1. Great comments, Craig. It baffles me when folks, not just legislators, refuse to have rational discussions about education. Seems that, too often, their minds are made up and no one should "confuse them with the facts." Thanks for your thoughts.