Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick is preachy, as TSTA President Rita Haecker pointed out in an Associated Press story this morning. He also is demagogic, as one of his Senate colleagues suggested in the same story. And, he is an expert at grandstanding.
But when it comes to improving educational opportunities for low-income children, he is wrong, flat wrong.
“You do become a little bit of an education evangelist because you know this works and you know we must do all we can to make sure every student has an opportunity,” Patrick is quoted in the same story, promoting his proposals to expand charter schools and create tax credits for private school vouchers.
Every student? What Patrick is proposing would be limited to a small number of children, while taking tax dollars from the vast majority of students. Moreover, private school vouchers and charters DON’T WORK any better than traditional public schools in boosting educational opportunities for that vast majority. Research has borne that out. And, that includes Florida, which former Gov. Jeb Bush was still touting as something of an education miracle in an invited appearance last week before Patrick’s committee.
State-commissioned studies have found no evidence that low-income students who receive vouchers to attend private schools do any better at reading or math than kids in Florida’s public schools. Bush also expanded charter schools in Florida while he was governor. But the state’s high school graduation rate remains mediocre, and large numbers of graduates still need remedial help in math and reading.
Tax resources have been drained from traditional public schools in Florida, and now Patrick wants to continue doing the same thing to Texas schools. Instead, he should be leading an effort – which he is not – to restore the $5.4 billion he voted to cut from public schools two years ago.
Those cuts – an average $1,062 per student over the past two years – have done a lot of damage to educational opportunities for the low-income children for whom Patrick claims to advocate. They have been forced to study in overcrowded classrooms. They have lost teachers, teaching assistants and pre-kindergarten and other dropout prevention programs. Now, he wants to take even more of their public support away to enrich education profiteers.
Education evangelist? Texas school kids need a statesman who really knows what works for them.