Public Education: an issue of legal responsibilitySomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Public Education: an issue of legal responsibility

29 March 2007 at 3:01:00 AM

Where are those "great minds of Texas" the governor always spoke of?

Apparently, once again, legislators decreased the state's responsibility for public school by $1.5 Billion. Lawmakers highlight the reason as "...because of growth of local property tax values." Never mind that property values increase every year mostly because local districts are continually forced by the state to raise property taxes to replace more of the state's share of responsibility. Property tax increases based on increasing home values are the easiest way for local governments to provide financing for public schools. Catch-22 anyone? You betcha!

Yet we're told in the same breath by lawmakers that "Net state spending on public schools would increase $2.4 billion, according to the House plan." Sounds like officials are playing monetary diversion tactics by moving around our tax dollars. They take away money from one area and divert it to another, making it look as though the legislature increased its constitutional responsibility to provide our children with a quality education. Ha! Fooled ya!

I've long pontificated that if the state doesn't want to assume its constitutional responsibility to provide a quality education to every child, then legislators need to change the law. Some lawmakers appear to be looking at doing just that.

Currently the state is guilty of violating its mandated responsibility to parents and their children. Personally, I advocate a class-action lawsuit against the state by parents and educators. Seems like any effort to resolve an educational issue in this state results from the judicial and not the legislative system.

If legislators want to privatize education, that's fine only if taxpayers don't have to foot the bill for it. Otherwise, legislators simply are looking to cover their own butts for not providing the appropriate and adequate financing during the past decade.

Case in point: It is the legislature that has created the current emergency plight of public education by having forced the court 10 years ago to set up an emergency financing system that ensures educational inequality among economic classes and is doomed to fail.

Dubbed the “Robin Hood” clause, it takes tax dollars from “wealthy” districts and gives it to “poor” districts. Perhaps we should rename it the “Tinkerbelle” clause because only magical pixie dust could make such an absurd system work.

However, if privatization of public education is our next step, legislators had better put into place a well-structured regulated system of tuition and finance costs. We need only observe what has occurred under the recent deregulation of higher education tuition costs to note the critical nature of this issue.

Privatization of public education brings along a whole set of other issues and problems. Ongoing legislative inept special interest short-term thinking is incapable of determining and implementing an entirely new educational system. In addition, operating two parallel educational systems under the state rubric, public and private, is doomed for failure. If the state cannot successfully manage one system, how is it possible for it to manage two?

However, if the real concern is to educate every child equally (which of course it isn't) then privatization is NOT the educational road to recovery. Privatizing education will merely ensure the inequality between the "haves" and the "have-nots" within our society.

Furthermore, the Legislature and Texas Communities also had better start thinking about what they will do with the large population of children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their children's private education. They need to bear in mind that jail systems and welfare programs cost significantly more than does public education.

Privatizing education is another misguided special interest notion legislators have selected so they don't have to assume the constitutional responsibility they have been diverting for the past decade. Isn't it clear yet to everyone that legislators, business folks and other special interests are NOT the groups needed to develop a quality functional public school system? Certainly, they have proven beyond a doubt that they are incapable of doing so.

It's time for voters to insist that on the issue of public education, legislators should either "poop or get-off the potty".

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