Lowering the bar

They may not accomplish much sometimes, but our state officials do love to pat themselves on the back.

“We have set the bar high for Texas students and educators,” state Education Commissioner Robert Scott said in budget documents released this week by the Texas Education Agency. He was trying to assure Texas parents and other taxpayers, I suppose, that state officials – including his boss, Gov. Rick Perry – are doing all they can to assure firstrate public schools.

Unfortunately, however, the remark was attached to $261 million in education budget cuts that Scott was proposing, including reductions in such critical areas as textbook purchases, dropout prevention, science labs, teaching mentoring and professional development and assistance for students having trouble passing standardized tests.

In short, Scott was proving that – educators and students aside – state officials still don’t have the courage to set the bar very high for themselves. Scott’s proposed cuts were in response to Perry’s order that state agencies identify 10 percent worth of spending reductions to help the Legislature close an anticipated $18 billion revenue shortfall next year.

If Perry and Scott have their way, the state’s woefully underfunded education system will take some more big hits. But, to Perry, that’s a lot easier than gutting up and finding the new revenue necessary for a realistic school finance solution.

About the time news of Scott’s budget proposals was breaking, Perry was leaving his $10,000 per month, taxpayerfunded rental mansion in Austin for a trip to West Texas, where he outlined what he called a “School Savings Incentive” for attacking school budgetary problems.

In truth, it is little more than a smokeandmirrors, bureaucratic shuffling of numbers that would have a negligible impact on most school district budgets. As Scott’s budget proposals demonstrate, if the state continues to dodge the necessity of new revenue, additional, painful cuts affecting real people – school kids, educators and local taxpayers – are in store.

For a more detailed look at the budget cuts outlined by TEA, check the news section on TSTA’s website, www.tsta.org.


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