With the pending departure of Michael Williams, a holdover appointee of Rick Perry, Gov. Greg Abbott now will have an opportunity to appoint his first state education commissioner. Considering Abbott’s education record so far, we better keep our fingers crossed.
Remember, Abbott designated a home-schooler to chair the State Board of Education, backed tax cuts over adequate education spending during last spring’s legislative session and continues to defend the state’s inadequate and unconstitutional school funding system. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Tea Party-types and school privateers also are likely to try to influence the governor’s selection.
Granted, the education commissioner has limited policy-setting authority and has to operate within the confines of laws set by the Legislature and Congress. But school children and educators need a real advocate for public schools in the state’s top education office, someone who – as TSTA President Noel Candelaria pointed out — will “advocate for a greater investment in our public schools and policies that will end punitive standardized testing that robs teachers and students of the time they need for real teaching and learning.”
Abbott’s choice will say a lot about whether he really intends to make public education a top priority or will continue to merely pat educators on the head with empty plaudits.