Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Enlist! Time for business to join revolt against bill


Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Groups representing both high-wealth and low-wealth school districts are lining up against the Texas House's funding bill. Now business leaders need to join that line. An alliance between educators and executives could stare down this insufficient bill.

District representatives told the House Public Education Committee on Monday that the bill doesn't offer enough money for schools to climb out of their current financial predicaments.

They're right. The bill's $3 billion in new funds will cover costs related to teacher health benefits and new legislative requirements. What's more, the legislation doesn't account for inflation costs. Schools will barely hold steady.

Business leaders, whose firms and shareholders benefit from smart workers, should be worried about this shortfall. They aren't going to get those employees if Texas schools don't have enough funds to, say, create small enough classrooms that students get sufficiently personalized instruction.

Texas business leaders have a recent strong example to follow. Executives joined the nation's governors this weekend in trying to devise a better high school. The heads of Microsoft, Prudential and State Farm were among those who stood shoulder to shoulder with state leaders at the National Educational Summit on High Schools. Prudential's Arthur Ryan even said he'd walk the halls of state capitols to make sure local schools have ample resources.

Some private-sector leaders in Texas already get it. Dallas attorney and school reformer Tom Luce participated in the high school summit. Companies such as Texas Instruments have pressed Austin to help schools produce innovative students. And San Antonio's Charles Butt has advocated for change.

Now more business leaders need to add their voices. The late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock liked to say that nothing gets going in Austin until the business community weighs in. Well, it's time things get going.
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