Day: <span>June 16, 2014</span>

Abbott’s and the GOP’s anti-education platform


If Greg Abbott and the Republicans who made him their gubernatorial nominee have their way, the war on public education in Texas will be renewed, beginning with further cuts in funding for both public schools and higher education.

Abbott, you will recall, continues to defend an inadequate school funding system, including $5.4 billion in budget cuts imposed by the legislative majority three years ago. Now, like-minded delegates to the recent Republican State Convention adopted a party platform that includes the following plank: “Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of educational institutions.”

The only “data” these backward-thinking ideologues are talking about is something they pulled out of their ears. You cannot have sustained educational achievement without paying for it. Whether Abbott and the platform writers like it or not, public school enrollment in Texas is growing by about 80,000 students a year. Additional money is needed to meet the demand for enough teachers to keep class sizes from getting out-of-hand and to equip those teachers with the resources their students need for success.

Republicans who can do the math realize that and will choose to ignore the platform, but it won’t go away. And, it does represent Abbott’s thinking. Not only does he continue to defend the earlier school budget cuts, he also has dismissed pre-kindergarten expenditures as a “waste” of money when, in fact, research – real research—has shown the importance of early childhood education programs.

Based on other language in the GOP platform, the party’s official solution to the growth of Texas public schools is to seal the border with Mexico. But that isn’t going to happen, folks, nor should it. Another platform plank calls on the Legislature to enact a law prohibiting undocumented children from receiving free educations in public schools, although the U.S. Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional years ago.

Abbott supports the school privatization advocates whose methodology is to underfund the public schools, declare them a failure and then privatize them by diverting tax dollars to unproven schemes such as private school vouchers and virtual or corporate-operated charters.

Here is the school privatization plank in the new Republican Party platform: “We encourage the Governor and the Texas Legislature to enact child-centered school funding options which fund the student, not schools or districts, to allow for maximum freedom of choice in public, private or parochial education for all children.”

Freedom of choice? Baloney. It’s a license to milk private profit from public tax dollars.

The platform also includes language seeking to undermine those long-time conservative targets – the teaching of evolution and sex education in public schools.

The platform also states: “We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems.”

Nothing was said, however, about the growing presence of Muslims in Texas and the public school system.

My thanks to the Burnt Orange Report for scoring a platform draft. Last time I checked, the Republican Party had not posted the platform on its website. Wonder why.