Commentary about healthcare right on the mark
Bravo Joe Southern! Well said! Your piece on the so called “Affordable Health Care Act” is right on the mark, absolutely accurate, honest and forthright and deserves a wider audience. Is there any way we can get it to go viral/mainstream via Facebook and Twitter?
— (Mrs.) Lee Chapman
Lt. Gov.’s education agenda wreaks anti-conservative
Dan Patrick rose to power through the Tea Party, an organization that, by its own definition, stands for conservative values of personal freedom, local independence and local control of schools and curricula. Patrick’s latest list of education “reforms,” none of which made the cut for him in the regular session, directly contradict these values.
Patrick proposes pay raises for teachers, something many districts have already done, despite the fact they will have less money from the state. While all of us are for higher salaries for teachers, without state money to pay for the mandate, this is nothing more than big government control of local funds.
Patrick proposes that school districts “reprioritize 5 percent of their funds” to pay for the unfunded mandate. He claims districts “have to be better about how they spend money” and “put more focus on teachers.” Mr. Patrick, when was the last time you attended a local school board meeting and spoke with a trustee about the complexities and limitations in managing a district budget? Have you actually visited a classroom and spoken to teachers about what they really need? Most teachers I have spoken with are shaking their heads at the proposals.
If you ask teachers what they really want, it’s for the state to get out of their classrooms.
We have asked the state for years to reduce the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the curriculum mandated by the state, a concept contrary to “local control of schools and curricula.” Our teachers’ lesson plans and every day of their school year are largely dictated by the state. It costs teachers and districts incredible amounts of time and money to ensure training and compliance with TEKS. Lieutenant Governor, if you really want to help teachers, please focus your efforts on reducing big government in our curriculum.
We have asked for years for state testing reform so teachers can get back to diagnosing and teaching instead of preparing for a high-stakes test, a concept contrary to “personal freedom” and “local control of schools and curricula.” This type of testing costs exorbitant amounts of money. It does not allow for human differences.
It does not allow for teacher creativity. It certainly does not allow for parental choice. Lieutenant Governor, if you want to help teachers and encourage choice for families, you absolutely must reduce government interference and edicts in our classrooms.
We have asked for reform of the state accountability system that shames children and teachers instead of providing accurate information about student and school needs. This is contrary to the concepts of “local independence” and “local control of schools.” Locally elected trustees are closest to the people. We answer to our constituents for how schools perform, how we spend money and how we provide for student and teacher needs. The state accountability system is a one-size-fits-all mandate that makes assumptions based on a high-stakes test we all know is flawed. This big government interference does not help kids, nor does it help schools and districts that struggle. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) should be a resource and support agency for struggling schools and districts, not a bureaucratic arm of the state that waves a big stick and threatens shut down. Lieutenant Governor, true conservatism provides solutions to struggling systems that are practical, local and sustainable. Please help us address student and teacher needs instead of dictating more government interference and unfunded mandates that are drowning the public education system and our children with it.
While a committee to study school finance is good, we have asked for a study to be done on the true cost to educate a child in Texas. None of our leaders, not the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, TEA, no one will conduct such a study. Why? Because then we would all know the truth, what it really costs to educate a child under all the burdensome state and federal mandates. Then we would know what our teachers and students are enduring daily at the hands of state and federal lawmakers. And we would know that the state is not adequately supporting them. Lieutenant Governor, if you want to help teachers, please start by understanding what it costs to support them and the students in their classrooms.
I am often asked by one of our conservative representatives if our district needs more money. My answer to him is always, “What we really need is less regulation and fewer unfunded mandates.” The truth that most lawmakers in Austin fail to tell you is that our budgets are largely driven by state mandates. If our budgets need to be “reprioritized” then the legislature needs to reprioritize and stop passing laws they can’t or won’t fund. Districts pay for many of the things they pass.
At the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s forum, I attended a session on the “surge” in administrators hired by districts in the past 50 years. The panel of speakers did not offer a cause for this “surge,” but criticized districts nonetheless. I raised my hand and asked if anyone on the panel had studied the “surge” in state and federal regulation, mandates and compliance over the same 50-year period and if there might be a correlation. Of course, no one had. In fact, they all appeared to have never considered at all the idea that big government was the underlying cause for the need for more administrators to ensure compliance with government regulation and mandates.
Criticism without identifying problems and offering practical solutions is not leadership. The current list of education “reforms” is simply more political antics that make our lieutenant governor look more like the bureaucrats he often scorns. If conservatives really want to improve education and offer parents a choice, they must disentangle the web of big government and stand for what they say they believe – local independence, local control of schools and personal freedom.
— Kristin Tassin
President, Fort Bend ISD
Board of Trustees