Day: <span>November 13, 2013</span>

Abbott strikes another blow against public education


Since he announced his candidacy for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott has had very little, if anything, to say about the value of public schools and the educators who teach our children. Instead, he continues to pander to the dreams of ideologues who wax nostalgic for the days of horse-drawn buggies, armed face offs outside the saloon and one-room school houses.

The likely Republican nominee’s latest strike against public education is, according to the Associated Press, a proposal to ban school districts from hiring lobbyists to represent them before the Legislature. He said not a word, of course, about the army of lobbyists demanding that the Legislature take large amounts of tax dollars from public schools for private school vouchers or corporate-style charters.

The truth is that school districts are not wasting large amounts of tax dollars on lobbying. Abbott simply is pandering to those Texans who are convinced that public schools are awash in cash, when, in fact, most school districts are still struggling from the $5.4 billion the legislative majority cut from public education two years ago.

Meanwhile, teachers, school administrators and school board members are an invaluable source of information for legislators. Unlike many self-styled education “reformers” who haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in years, teachers and other school officials are on the front lines of education every day. They know what the real needs of students are, and legislators and governors should make them their primary source of education information.

Abbott’s latest blow, though, is simply more of the same. He also continues to defend a school finance system that a judge already has declared unconstitutional because it is inadequate and treats students in property poor districts unfairly. And, a couple of weeks ago, Abbott unveiled a so-called “budget plan” that would make school funding even worse instead of making it a priority.

However, the attorney general is quick on the draw when it comes to other “priorities,” such as passing a law to make it legal to openly carry handguns in public. That priority may make him a perfect candidate for a role on a Gunsmoke remake or sheriff of Tombstone, Ariz., but it does not address the changing needs of 21st century Texas.