Not only is Greg Abbott totally clueless about the needs of public schools, he doesn’t listen to those who value public education and do know what our neighborhood schools need. I know I have been picking on Abbott a lot lately. But the man wants to be governor of Texas, folks, and yet he seems to know almost nothing about public education, one of the most important programs that state government is responsible for supporting.
Consider what he told reporters the other day, after meeting privately with charter school leaders in San Antonio. It is not clear that he actually met with any teachers, and, if he did, it sounds like he didn’t listen to them anyway.
“No one before now has come out and said what our priorities should be in education in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
What??? The truth is the attorney general has been so busy wasting tax dollars on mostly symbolic and ideological suits against the federal government that he simply hasn’t been listening.
For years, the real education experts have been telling anyone who will listen what our educational priorities should be:
- An adequate and fairly funded school finance system that gives every child an opportunity at a first-class public education.
- Teachers who are paid at a level commensurate with their professional work, and paid enough so almost half of them don’t have to take a second job to make ends meet. Pay that is $8,000 below the national average, the current level in Texas, is not professional and promotes a high rate of turnover, to the detriment of students.
- Smaller class sizes that allow teachers to give students the individual attention needed to promote real learning.
- Up-to-date textbooks and instructional materials free of political ideology and modern, technological teaching aids for every classroom.
By real education experts, I mean people who have actually been in the classroom. For years, teachers and educators have been telling legislators and governors what Texas’ educational priorities must be. I am not talking about voucher hucksters, virtual school promoters, corporate charter CEOs and other privateers posing as “education reformers.” These are the people to whom Abbott has been listening so far, and their only interest in the public schools is how to rob them of tax dollars.
And, if the pleas of teachers weren’t enough, Abbott could have learned about the real education priorities had he spent much time in the courtroom when his office was defending the unconstitutional school finance system, including $5.4 billion in education budget cuts. He would have heard a parade of additional experts — school superintendents and other witnesses — describing in detail the consequences of under-funding public schools.
Abbott claims to want to give Texas the “No. 1 ranked education system in the entire United States of America.” But that’s a hollow promise from someone who continues to defend $5.4 billion in school budget cuts, including the loss of 11,000 teacher jobs, thousands of overcrowded classrooms and per-student spending that ranks 49th among the states and the District of Columbia.
Abbott said he could not “go back and reconstruct” what happened when the legislative majority slashed school funding two years ago. In reality, the next governor actually could, and Wendy Davis makes it clear that she will. But it is very clear that Abbott wouldn’t.