Guest post: I’m Wondering Why—The Rhetoric about Public Schools Doesn’t Add Up

I’m Wondering Why
The Rhetoric about Public Schools Doesn’t Add Up

Andra Self

           Andra Self

by Andra Self

Lately, much of what is said by some state leaders about schools just doesn’t add up. Inconsistencies and conundrums in their statements are leading many Texans to ask questions. Here are a few examples.

Why Not Brag? 

We all know that Texas is a state that loves to brag. We brag about everything being bigger and better in Texas. We brag about how we compare to other states. But somehow, when it comes to schools, some state leaders don’t take the opportunity to brag, and I wonder why. Recently, U.S. News & World Report released its list of the best high schools in the nation. Of the top 10 high schools, four are public high schools in Texas. That is certainly brag-worthy!

For the past few years, Texas has been ranking in the top handful of states on graduation rates. In fact, Texas African American students rank first when compared to their peers in other states. Graduation rates for Hispanic students are also best in the nation. White students’ graduation rates are outdone by only one state. Texas graduation rates are something to brag about, and it seems odd that some state leaders aren’t bragging.

Why the Stance on Tests?

At the same time that state lawmakers are passing laws that allow a student to graduate without passing all the tests (Senate Bill 149), those same leaders are embracing test results to rate schools A through F (Senate Bill 6).

On one hand, the tests have lost support, while at the same time the tests are considered a reliable tool for ranking schools. It seems strange that the tests are suspect in one context, yet valid measures in another.

Why a New Bureaucracy? 

Some lawmakers are focused on what to do about “failing schools” and are creating a new statewide bureaucracy to take troubled schools away from their local districts. However, years of data from the Texas Education Agency show that local districts have a laudable track record on turning around schools that receive the lowest ranking.

In fact, districts move 80 percent of schools out of that category in the first year after receiving substandard rankings. A new bureaucracy is not needed.

Why Not Tell the Truth About Choice?

Some politicians push for “school choice”—but in truth, parents already have many choices and are exercising those choices: In addition to Texas public schools, parents can consider private schools, public charter schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling.

Furthermore, there are often many choices within the public school system: magnet schools, transfers within districts, and transfers to other districts. School choice already exists.

Why No Adequate Funding? 

The number of students in Texas is growing by approximately 80,000 each year. We topped 5 million students recently. Schools are caught in a squeeze between rising student numbers, increased daily costs (e.g., electricity, transportation, food, supplies), and unfunded mandates from state government.

However, the Legislature cut school funding by $5.4 billion in the session before last and now appears unresponsive to the judge’s ruling that public school funding should be improved. The state has plenty of dollars to fund schools, but some lawmakers seem inclined to withhold those much needed dollars.

Why Vouchers?

Vouchers are designed to allow students to attend private schools using public tax dollars, and some lawmakers are going through all sorts of gyrations to find ways to divert funding from public schools to private schools. They want to take dollars away from the many students who attend public schools (almost 94 percent) to pay for the few (about 7 percent) who attend private schools—schools that will have no accountability for tax dollars or academic achievement.

Why Not Support Public Schools?

As you see, much of the rhetoric simply does not add up. Texas public schools are doing better than ever before. They deserve our applause and support.

Some lawmakers are working hard to support public schools, and we deeply appreciate that. Others, however, are denigrating this state’s public schools with statements not based on facts or needs. As we move forward in the future, it’s critical that all Texas lawmakers work together to Stand Up for Texas Public Schools.

Andra Self, a Lufkin ISD trustee, is 2014-15 president of TASB.

Views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ATPE. Reprinted with permission from the July 2015 Texas Lone Star magazine, published by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). Copyright 2015 TASB. All rights reserved.
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5 thoughts on “Guest post: I’m Wondering Why—The Rhetoric about Public Schools Doesn’t Add Up

  1. John Ellzey

    Thank you for your commentary. I recently retired from one of the largest districts in Texas. As a leadership member of the faculty at one of those “needs improvement” schools, I’m proud to say that faculty, students, and administrators pulled together admirably to “get off that list,” and we succeeded. My point is this: I doubt very seriously that we needed the state to come in with its data heads and over-zealous bureaucrats to achieve that goal.

    Why did I retire? That last sentence tells the story. I loved teaching and my students loved me as a teacher, even if I do say so myself. I’m sure I am not alone in this regard.

    Next question: Why can’t they just leave us alone and let us do our jobs. We know more about classroom success than most legislators. Maybe, just maybe, if they would let the teachers make the policies now made by the legislature and the state bureaucracy, education in Texas would improve more than they could ever imagine.

    Thanks for listening.

    Reply
  2. Richard Wiggins

    Ms. Self, you make excellent points that don’t add up after your thorough discussion. Tell me, why do those in the fourth estate (the press research) and figure out why this does not add up. I dare say the fact that education in America is $500,000,0000 per year industry that Wall Street wants Part of it and can only get it if public school are perceived to have “failed” One of the great Lies being told in Texas and America! Wake Up Amerca! There are powerFul force,s that want to take over PUBLIC EDUCATION for profit!!!!

    Reply
  3. Dr. Donna Marhoun

    The writer makes great points. Wish this article could be published in every newspaper in the state so that people outside of this organization and public education could read it.

    Reply
  4. Chris

    Ms. Self,

    Why school choice? Take me for instance. I am not interested in my child being part of a social experiment led by Dewey influenced educators. I am interested in my child getting a great education that is time tested and excellent. So, I would love a Classical Christian School model.

    Well, due to poor court rulings and misreadings of the Constitution, your hands are tied when it comes to discussing religion, values, truth. All public schools are allowed to do is push the “party” line in regards to many subjects. I want my kids to learn how to think, not be told what to think. Since I am a taxpayer, it is only fair that some of my hard earned tax dollars go to fund my student who will not be in a government institution.

    I say all of this as a 6 year veteran teacher. You could create the best schools to pass those tests on the planet. It wouldn’t matter. In the end education is a fundamentally religious institution. I wouldn’t hand my children over to the many gods of secularism for their instruction.

    Reply

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