Picking on public schools
Friday, January 28, 2005
Much of Gov. Rick Perry's State of the State speech on Wednesday was standard fare for such legislative addresses. But there was a disturbing undertone of hostility toward public education.
At one level, the governor had the usual bromides: Improve school and teacher accountability for classroom performance, reward outstanding teachers financially and do more to help struggling schools.
And, he said, all this could be done with no new taxes.
But after making a proposal reasonable on its face, Perry would follow it up with a kick at public education.
For example, he called for more detailed disclosure by school districts of how much of their costs go to classrooms and how much to administration.
But then he added that taxpayers "deserve to know how much is spent on administration and how much they are paying for lobbyists and lawyers who seek to extract even more tax dollars from their pockets."
The governor favors "school choice" — diverting some public education funds to private schools. We dislike the idea, but it's worthy of debate.
But the governor again attacked public education, saying of parents, "They deserve better than to leave their fate in the hands of a local monopoly that is slow to change without the benefit of competition."
And, he added, "Every child is entitled to a public education, but public education is not entitled to every child."
A casual listener could be forgiven for not knowing that the Texas Constitution declares that it "shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."
And the Constitution says it's the governor duty to make sure the laws — including those regarding public education — are "faithfully executed."
If that system is screwed up, it's Perry and the Legislature's job to fix it — not campaign against it as though they have nothing to do with its present state of affairs.
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