Unlike some of his colleagues, Thomas Ratliff, a Republican member of the State Board of Education, actually values the public schools. In a recent speech (linked below), he refutes much of the ideological nonsense that we have heard ad nauseam from the governor and most Republican legislators.
The socalled “Moneyball” speech, delivered in Lufkin a few weeks ago, draws parallels with the book, which was adapted into the recent movie, about changing the way major league baseball evaluated talent. Ratliff’s message essentially is that alleged “experts” – or ideologues with a political agenda – who refuse to remove their heads from the sand can block real progress in any endeavor, public education as well as baseball.
He challenges standardized testing – ‘’a blunt instrument used to beat up teachers and students” – and the rightwing myth that the public schools are drowning in administrators.
Ratliff also refutes the budgetcutters who claim that class size, including the 221 cap for kindergarten through fourth grade, isn’t an important factor in educational quality. Thanks to those budgetcutters (the governor and the legislative majority), more than 8,200 elementary classrooms throughout Texas are more crowded than state law allows.
“Those who want to starve our schools to death…want you to believe that class size doesn’t matter,” Ratliff says. “I am going to tell you that the data is undeniable that class size matters.” That is why, he notes, the Texas Education Agency denied some 221 financial hardship waivers for school districts with low performance ratings. And it is why, he adds, that private schools use small class sizes as a selling point to parents.
Neither does Ratliff buy the baloney, dished up by some Republicans, that the Legislature actually increased funding for the public schools last year. If you count enrollment growth and factor in an inflation factor of 2 percent annually in the costs borne by schools since 2009, the new public education budget for 201213 falls $10.8 billion short, he believes.
Finally, he points out that many elected officials and political candidates are merely masquerading as education advocates. “We can do better,” he says. “What we need to do is elect more people who are willing to prove that education is their first priority, not just give it lip service.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.