In the continuing legislative debate over education policy, “reform” continues to be the most abused and deliberately misused word in the political jargon. Reform is not simply change, folks. Reform is change for the better, and many of the educator meddlers hijacking the word are not trying to make our public schools better. They are trying instead to squeeze personal profits from public schools at the expense of taxpayers and school children.
One of the latest such groups to emerge this session is Texans for Education Reform, which has as much interest in truly reforming education as Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) has had in truly reforming our judicial system – and that would be none. The fact that the two names are similar is no coincidence.
Some of the key business players in Texans for Lawsuit Reform are now involved in Texans for Education Reform. To protect the business interests and enhance the personal fortunes of its members, Texans for Lawsuit Reform has succeeded in winning state laws and court decisions all but shutting courthouse doors to Texas consumers. Average Texans seriously injured on the job, maimed by a careless surgeon or defrauded by a crooked business owner now have a much more difficult – sometimes impossible – task winning compensation through the state’s judicial system. That’s because Texans for Lawsuit Reform has spread millions of dollars in campaign contributions among Gov. Rick Perry, legislators and judges and has flooded the Capitol with lobbyists.
Now, some of these same players – under the guise of Texans for Education Reform – are at the Capitol. But are they advocating for more education funding, smaller classrooms, better teacher pay and other basics that actually would improve the learning environment? No.
Lawsuit-turned-education “reformers” such as Richard Trabulsi and Leo Linbeck are now pushing school privatization schemes. These include an expansion of charter schools and expanding online learning to private vendors, which would give their privateering colleagues more opportunities to rake in tax dollars as charter school operators, online “educational” gurus or whatever. Texans for Education Reform supposedly is not involved in the push for private school vouchers, but Linbeck has advocated for vouchers in the past.
This is not the time to expand charters, mainly because traditional public schools – which are where the vast majority of students are educated – are still struggling from the budget cuts of two years ago, and the funding still hasn’t been completely restored. What’s more, the state can’t even effectively regulate the charter schools it already has, including weeding out bad charters that never should have been granted in the first place. Online learning can be an important educational tool, but it can’t replace classroom teachers, many of whom lost their jobs because of the budget cuts.
TLR founder Richard Weekley is on the Texans for Education Reform board. The board president is former Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro. Her main legacy as an education “reformer,” in case you don’t recall, was heaping an increasing number of standardized tests – including STAAR – on Texas school children and teachers.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform has done a pretty effective job of shutting down courthouses in Texas. Let us not give Texans for Education Reform an opportunity to take the first steps toward doing the same thing to public schools.