Day: <span>June 25, 2013</span>

Confusing politics and educational needs


Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, a Republican African American, praised today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Voting Rights Act because, he said, it eliminates a “major hurdle” to helping children in ineffective school districts, such as Harris County’s North Forest ISD.

Huh? How does gutting a law designed to protect minority voters help children in struggling, largely minority school districts? It doesn’t, except in Williams’ mind.

The commissioner’s argument, however, is that the high court decision clears a potential barrier – Justice Department approval – to the Texas Education Agency’s plan to abolish North Forest and its elected school board on July 1 and put North Forest’s students into Houston ISD.

Williams obviously considers the gutting of the Voting Rights Act a political victory, but he shouldn’t confuse that with improving educational opportunities for the mostly African American students in North Forest. The biggest barrier to a quality education for them has been – and remains — an inadequate and unfair system of education funding, which has a particularly harmful effect on many low-income students. Simply moving these students from one school district to another is not going to change the basic problem. The much larger Houston ISD has more resources, but many of its students also are struggling for the same basic reason.

As the state’s public education commissioner, Williams has championed private school vouchers, high-stakes standardized testing and, now, a reversal of minority voting rights. When is he going to advocate for the resources that students and their teachers really need?