Month: <span>August 2012</span>

More on the Romney-Ryan anti-education war

Paul Ryan’s war on public schools is much deeper than the anti-education votes I listed in a blog posting the other day. The slash-and-burn budget proposal that he sponsored in Congress before Mitt Romney chose him as a running mate would have resulted in lost opportunities for thousands of Texas school children and cost as many as 19,000 Texas educators their jobs. These losses would be in addition to the cuts, job losses and overcrowded classrooms already inflicted on Texas schools by the governor and the legislative majority.

Mitt Romney shares Ryan’s condescending view of public education, or he wouldn’t have chosen the congressman as a running mate. The Romney-Ryan budget, if adopted, would particularly target low-income children and the people who teach them. I don’t care how many charter and voucher schemes you come up with, the vast majority of these kids are going to be educated in traditional public schools – or they are going to drop out. When kids drop out of school, it hurts families, cuts economic capacity and compromises the safety of our communities. It makes absolutely no sense to undercut public education.

During fiscal 2013-14, the Romney-Ryan budget would cut more than $141 million from Head Start programs in Texas alone. This would eliminate enrollment slots for 19,000 young children and 8,050 jobs for Head Start teachers. Head Start is not a babysitting service. It is an important early childhood development program that helps disadvantaged children learn in a classroom setting and stay in school, rather than drop out, when they get a little older. It is an investment in a stronger future, not only for the children but also for the entire economy.

Romney and Ryan would whack $335 million from federal Title I programs in Texas. These also are programs designed to give extra help to low-income and disadvantaged kids in danger of dropping out and becoming tax burdens, rather than productive taxpayers, as adults. These cuts would reduce or eliminate services for more than 800,000 Texas children and cost more than 6,200 Texas educators their jobs. The Romney-Ryan proposal also would cut $247 million from special education grants to Texas. That would transfer those costs to the state and local school districts, jeopardizing services for more than 108,000 children and jobs for 4,600 educators. School children and educators in other states also would suffer significant hits in all these categories.

The National Education Association (NEA), with which TSTA is affiliated, compiled the above figures. NEA is supporting President Obama’s reelection because President Obama is a strong supporter of the public schools and advocates for equal opportunity for all children. That is in sharp contrast to the Romney-Ryan education budget and Romney’s top-down belief that children should receive as much education “as they can afford.”

Paul Ryan: Making education less affordable

Most of you probably know by now that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate, never met a public program – including Medicare, Medicaid and public education — he didn’t want to slash. His selection by Romney reaffirms the course on which the Republican ticket is headed – toward a government with a paper-thin safety net for middle- and low-income Americans and an education system in which children, as Romney has declared, can get as much education “as they can afford.”

Ryan, while in Congress, has worked hard to make education less affordable for millions of hard-working young Americans and their tax-paying families. Here is a sample of his voting record on education issues:

# Voted against a $2,500 tax credit for college students.

# Opposed increased funding for special education and teacher quality programs.

# Voted against full funding for Head Start and supported cuts in Head Start enrollment.

# Voted against funding to help avoid teacher layoffs.

# Voted for an across-the-board cut to education initiatives.

# Voted to cut Title 1 funding for local educators by $693.5 million.

# Voted to cut No Child Left Behind by $784 million.

# Voted to drain tax dollars from public schools by supporting an extension of a school voucher program in Washington, D.C.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Ryan, of course, won a quick endorsement from Texas’ own champion education budget-cutter – Gov. Rick Perry, who whacked $5.4 billion from Texas’ public schools last year.

First, Perry, and now, Romney and Ryan. Our school children deserve better, much better. So do their parents.

Accountability system “designed to fail”

The Texas State Teachers Association believes it is time for state officials to stop wringing their hands over standardized test scores and start giving the public schools the support they need. Even as enrollment in Texas’ public schools continues to grow by about 85,000 children a year, the governor and the legislative majority last year cut $5.4 billion from school funding. The result was fewer teachers, larger classes and a weakened learning environment. And, oh yes, the same officials left $8.1 billion of taxpayer money unspent in the Rainy Day Fund.

Small wonder Texas’ Adequate Yearly Progress report took a beating, and higher passing standards were only partly to blame.

Here is what TSTA President Rita Haecker had to say about the latest AYP report:

“Texas’ Adequate Yearly Progress ratings are not surprising. The simple truth is that Texas’ alleged school ‘accountability’ system, on which the AYP ratings are based, was designed to fail. The governor and the legislative majority have spent too much time focusing on a high stakes test while cutting the resources our teachers and students need to succeed. The $5.4 billion in education cuts last year resulted in thousands of overcrowded classrooms and diminished learning opportunities.
“Texas parents, educators and business leaders have the ability to start charting a new direction this November. We have educators and students with the talent and desire to make every classroom a place of learning and success. But we need legislators and other political leaders who care more about our children’s success than they do about misguided political ideology.”

Buckle up for voucher fight

Intent on inflicting even more damage on the public schools, conservative Republicans are almost certain to make school vouchers a priority during next year’s legislative session. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, published over the weekend, state Sen. Dan Patrick was almost drooling over the prospect.

“This (2013) is the year to do it, in my view,” Patrick said. “That issue will do more to impact the future of Texas and the quality of education than anything else we could do.”

Coming from a legislative tea party leader who gleefully whacked away at public school budgets – and educators’ jobs — last year, those words are pretty scary. Patrick is trying to suggest that school vouchers would have a positive “impact” on educational quality. But that suggestion is about as absurd as the claims by Patrick, Gov. Perry and other right-wingers that the $5.4 billion they slashed from public education in 2011 didn’t hurt the schools.

You don’t improve public education – or enhance the state’s future – by diverting tax dollars to private school vouchers. What you do is enrich educational profiteers – be they private school owners, charter school operators or online instruction gurus – at the expense of the vast majority of Texas school children.

Patrick and other voucher advocates talk about giving parents and their children “choice” over educational options. But their real goal is not advancing education. It is promoting a short-sighted, limited-government ideology.

But elections have consequences, folks. So buckle up.