State Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes and members of the State Board of Education were squabbling with each other yesterday over who was dropping the ball in preparing Texas young people for college. They were squabbling with the wrong people.
The discussion included, among other things, high school graduation requirements, scores on college entrance exams and whether Texas universities were adequately training K-12 teachers. The basic problem, however, is not with the universities, the public schools and certainly not with teachers.
The problem – and it has been this way for a long time — is with a governor and legislative majority that is intent on wrecking public education by under-funding public schools and wasting tax dollars and teachers’ valuable time on punitive, counter-productive standardized testing. That is the message that Paredes and members of the state board need to take firmly and repeatedly to Gov. Abbott and the legislators who are morally failing their responsibility to Texas school children. Education Commissioner Mike Morath, Paredes’ counterpart over K-12, should join them.
Consider these factors, which were missing from yesterday’s discussion:
# Texas spends $2,690 below the national average in per-student funding, and many school districts haven’t recovered from the $5.4 billion in education budget cuts imposed by the legislative majority in 2011. That means thousands of school kids are in over-sized classes with insufficient individual attention from teachers.
# Average teacher pay in Texas is more than $6,000 below the national average. Consider below-average pay and the fact that teachers have to waste hours of instruction time on STAAR preparation and it is small wonder that about half of the teachers who will begin their careers this fall will find another line of work within the next five years. That is a loss of good teachers that Texas can ill afford to keep suffering.
Abbott and the legislative majority even deliberately shortchanged a pre-K program that the governor claimed was a top “priority.”
In truth, nothing about the public education system is a real priority of the governor and his legislative allies, and that’s the real problem.