Day: <span>May 2, 2023</span>

Attacks on public education still peppered with lies

Final legislative decisions on vouchers and public school funding, including educator pay raises and retirement benefits, have yet to be made. But whatever happens, this session has been marked by attacks on public education and teachers that were clearly designed to damage public confidence in the most important institution this state has going for it – our public school system.

There are sharp differences of opinion between TSTA and other public education advocates, on one side, and leaders of the political majority on the other, as there often have been whenever the Legislature has been in session. But the attacks on educators this year have deteriorated, sometimes to the point of being mean-spirited.

The tone began to noticeably worsen two years ago when Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick repeatedly lied about critical race theory being taught in Texas public schools and enacted a law to discourage educators from teaching the whole truth about our history and culture to students who need to know it. Their goal, purely political, was to pander to and agitate parents who are uncomfortable with the growing diversity in our public schools, where children of color make up the majority of enrollment statewide and the number of LGBTQ students is growing.

Then last year, on the ballot in a conservative Republican primary, the governor renewed his attack on educators by suggesting wrongly that pornography was widespread in public school libraries, eventually citing only one or two LGBTQ books as examples. Then he ordered a statewide investigation, without noting that most school districts already had policies in place to review such books if parents had complaints about them. His pornography pronouncement defamed school librarians and subjected school boards to attacks from angry and mostly misinformed parents.

Now, with private school vouchers added as an Abbott priority, the political attacks on educators continue.

The Texas Republican Party raises campaign money with anti-public education emails carrying subject lines such as “Filthy Books” or “Don’t let schools exploit our kids!” and urging recipients to tell their legislators to “stop the perversion and sexualization of our children.”

Public schools and the people who work in them are not trying to “exploit” children. They are trying to educate them and prepare them for successful futures. Abbott, Patrick and the Republican leadership are trying to strip funding from public school budgets for vouchers with a long-term goal of destroying public education and privatizing it. The attacks on educators are part of the strategy.

And some Republican legislators have joined the attack. One of the worst offenders is Rep. Brian Harrison of Midlothian, who recently tweeted, “Texas teacher union fighting for taxpayer-funded pornography in children’s public school libraries.”

Not only was that a lie, it also was mean-spirited, meaning, as one dictionary defines the term, “feeling or showing a cruel desire to cause pain or harm.”

It is painful to see underpaid educators who work hard every day to help their students succeed be attacked with political lies. If these attacks succeed, the harm will come later – to the public school system and future generations of children who can no longer take a public education for granted.

Clay Robison