Remember that word. It may soon become the new buzz term – something akin to “accountability” – as legislative leaders continue their discussions of how to improve the public schools without giving them more money. Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro dropped the word during a meeting with administrators from her hometown Plano ISD.
“If we’re (the Legislature) not going to give you the money, and we aren’t, what can we do to give you more flexibility?” she asked. “That’s what we’re really looking at.”
Another term for flexibility, in the language of school superintendents, is local control, which is what they are seeking on the eve of what promises to be a very budgetstressed legislative session. That local control, if granted by lawmakers, will begin – but won’t end with a lifting of the 221 studentteacher ratio in grades kindergarten through four. Teachers will lose their jobs, class sizes will grow, popular electives will be cut, extracurricular programs will be trimmed and school bus routes may be consolidated.
Before long, parents will be outraged, having been reminded that all the flexibility and local control that school districts can grab doesn’t allow them to do more with less, or even maintain the status quo.
Superintendents and elected school board members will try to blame the Legislature. But guess what? The Legislature will already have put them on the hook, left them dangling while they frantically dispatch their lawyers to the courthouse to sue the state – again – over an inadequate school finance system.
When budgetstrapped legislative leaders tell you they are going to give you more flexibility instead of more money, they are, in essence, telling you to do more with less. But, save for a very few remarkable instances, that goal is a pipedream.