In August of 2005, I wrote an editorial that appeared in the San Antonio Express News (see Here) and picked up on other websites after our Governor (Rick Perry) and the legislature failed to address the school funding crisis in the regular legislative session and worked into the summer to give us our current failed system. Even though our elected representatives failed to provide an equal and equitable system of school funding, they did manage to increase their own pensions and simultaneously reduce the pensions of teachers. The legislature’s pension is tied to the salaries of state judges. Therefore, when they raised the salary of judges, which they did in the final special session, they also raised their own pensions. Go figure. This is what I said:
- My party, the Republican Party, although holding the Governor’s Mansion and a majority in the Texas House and Senate, has failed to develop a workable system to finance Texas public schools in one regular and two special sessions this year.Not only have the elected officials of my party made the profession of public education their whipping boy, but fewer of the state’s best and brightest students will choose education as their profession.
My party has become the enemy of public education in Texas. The Republican Party has consistently wrapped itself in the banner of local control but has turned on itself in legislating areas of local decisions.
If the Legislature can propose and pass laws detrimental to public education without outcries from the public, then we as educators must shoulder most of, if not all, the blame. If eradicating cupcake parties from elementary campuses creates more public outcry than reducing teachers’ pensions, then we in the profession must better inform the public of our mission.
The first word in public education is public. Without the support of the public, there is little we can do to fend off the blitzkrieg of assaults every two years from the Legislature in the always fashionable name of “education reform.”
Public schools take all students who enter our doors regardless of their abilities. We offer programs to accelerate instruction for students who have special learning needs and offer courses for college credit. We teach foreign language to English speakers and the English language to foreigners. We drive, feed, exercise, remediate and accelerate any and all students. There is accountability, technology, ESL, LEPs, ARDs, IEPs, AEPs, ISS,
SROs, drugs, drug dogs, drug testing, guns, gangs, steroids and, unfortunately, consternation from the lawmakers and rule-makers who should be supportive of what we do but instead tell us we’re not good enough as they push through more and more unfunded mandates.
The governor enjoys the jingle, “We don’t need more money for education, we need more education for our money.” If that’s the case, then let teachers teach, let principals oversee their campuses and stop asking public educators to correct all of society’s ills. If the Legislature worked as hard upholding its promise of increasing teachers’ salaries to the national average as it has cutting property taxes, then we would have more college-bound students choosing education as their profession and less of a need for emergency certified teachers.
We must elect officials who value public education and recognize that public education is the cornerstone of our American democratic way of life. We do not need public education executioners as our legislative leaders. We need legislative leaders who will execute legislation that is positive for all Texans and positive for public education. We didn’t create the $1.50 cap on school funding, but we’re told to run the schools regardless of increased costs. We didn’t create the deficit in the Teacher Retirement System by reducing the state’s contribution in 1995, but now we’re mandated to put more of our salary into the system and accept a cut in benefits.
It is shocking that the Legislature would cut teachers’ pensions and then propose to increase their own pension by raising the pay for judges and hiding their individual votes from the public through a voice vote. If raising the salaries of judges is the right thing to do, then make the vote a part of the public record.
We, the public and public educators, must change our message and the leadership in the Legislature. The current Legislature has done the talk. After the elections in this and subsequent Novembers, if we do our job, the enemies of public education and their supporters in the Legislature will take a walk.
Now it seems that members of my party are again at it with another push for vouchers. Will the onslaught ever end? The more things change…