Day: <span>January 17, 2014</span>

Beware of education “reformers” with lots of money


As a rule of thumb, teachers and others who truly value public schools should be wary of any group claiming to promote “education reform,” which more often than not in the current Texas political climate is a code term for school privatization. And, you should be extra wary of Texans for Education Reform, which has formed a political action committee that already has raised nearly $1 million to spend on political campaigns this year.

This is the same group that emerged during last year’s legislative session, and it didn’t have the slightest interest in giving public schools and teachers the resources they need to handle growing student enrollments. As far as I know, this group didn’t even bother to seek input from the real education experts who are in the classroom every day, our public school teachers.

This group wants to drain money from public schools for more privately operated charter schools and online virtual learning, which offer opportunities for more enrichment in the entrepreneurial community, not opportunities for enriching the learning opportunities of thousands of Texas school children.

Charter schools are a mixed bag, academically. Many privately run charters try to cherry pick the best students, while taking money from neighborhood public schools where most Texas children will continue to be educated. Computers are an important classroom tool in the 21st century, but not a replacement for teachers.

Some of the major players in this new group – including Dick Weekley and Richard Trabulsi — were principals of Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR), another group with a misleading name. Its goal was not judicial reform but enactment of laws making it extremely difficult for consumers to win legitimate damage claims against businesses and doctors. TLR has been largely successful in restricting consumers’ access to the courts after contributing millions of dollars to Gov. Rick Perry and legislators in numerous election cycles.

So far, according to the Austin American-Statesman, the new Texans for Education Reform PAC has contributed $95,000 to House Speaker Joe Straus and members of legislative committees that draft public education laws. Only 11 people, including Weekley, account for the nearly $1 million the PAC has raised so far.

Make no mistake. These people know how to make and spend money, and they don’t hesitate to spend as much as they think it may take to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, they know very little about public education and, so far, don’t seem interested in talking with people who do.