Business group doesn’t get it

The Texas Association of Business has been one of the more influential interest groups in Austin for a number of years now, and I have no doubt that its president, Bill Hammond, and other leaders truly value the importance of a quality public education system. But they contradict themselves by propping up a governor and other political leaders intent on tearing down our public schools.

This week, TAB took out an ad – headlined “Don’t Fail Us” in the Austin AmericanStatesman, urging unnamed Texas leaders and educators not to retreat from the student “accountability” system enacted by the Legislature in 2009.

“Please do not turn your back on Texas students, their families and the workforce needs of Texas employers,” it exhorts. And, it warns against “a concerted effort to retreat from the very reforms that could improve our state’s public education system and deliver a brighter future for Texas.”

These “reforms” are the STAAR tests that will debut this spring, putting more “accountability” pressure on children. Students will have to pass them to be promoted and eventually to graduate from high school. Unlike the TAKS, the new test scores also will be calculated into students’ grades.

Standardized tests should be administered primarily as a diagnostic tool, to help a teacher determine a student’s strengths and weaknesses. The problem with STAAR is that it is part of an alleged “accountability” system that is upside down. Gov. Rick Perry and the legislative majority heaped more pressure upon children for improved performance while slashing $5.4 billion from the public education budget.

Even state Education Commissioner Robert Scott, a Perry appointee, recognizes the absurdity and the unfairness. In a speech to school administrators earlier this week, Scott apologized for the education funding cuts. He also vowed not to certify the ban on social promotions of children who fail STAAR unless the Legislature appropriates enough money to provide remedial help to students.

Scott’s remarks may have been what prompted the Texas Association of Business to place its ad. But Scott isn’t the problem. The governor and the legislative majority are the problem. They continue to insist that everyone in the educational process be accountable but themselves.

The governor and the legislative majority already have turned their back on Texas students, their families and Texas employers. They already have failed us, and the Texas Association of Business has helped them do it. The TAB political action committee is a longtime supporter of Gov. Perry, including the governor’s 2010 reelection. The committee also endorsed many of the legislators who gave Perry the budget he wanted. They voted for the $5.4 billion in education cuts, while leaving $7.3 billion of taxpayers’ money unspent in the Rainy Day Fund.

TAB likes Perry’s and the legislative majority’s lowtax, lowregulation philosophy. But that is exacting a devastating toll on public schools. Thousands of teachers have lost their jobs, and thousands of classrooms are overcrowded, and no amount of newspaper ads promoting an underfunded, upsidedown “accountability” system for children is going to stop that bleeding.

There is a way the Texas Association of Business can help the public schools, though. It can encourage its members to join with TSTA and sign our petition urging the governor to call a special legislative session now to spend $2.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund. That would be enough to restore public education funding for the 20122013 school year.

And, when it comes time (soon, we hope) to find a longerrange solution to our inadequate and inequitable school finance system, TAB’s members should support fairminded, realistic funding solutions that will help ensure their future prosperity as well as that of their future employees.

You can sign the TSTA, stopthecuts petition by clicking on this link:


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