Monday, May 23, 2005

The merry, make that maniacal, month of . . .

JOHN YOUNG, Opinion page editor

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Let's say that Emily Harrington's evening was a microcosm of the month for many of us.

Take the mad seconds in which she changed backstage from a derby-hatted Charlie Chaplin (singing "Smile" and playing it on the violin) to the blue evening gown in which she barely missed a bar on a "Phantom of the Opera" medley (without a trace of mustache.)

The all-state singer surely lost count of all the costume changes, but missed no cue as the Waco High School choirs staged their year-end Big Show.

Instructor Florence Scattergood went through the motions of a thousand butterfly wings in getting 220 choir members on stage and off. That, too, was analogous of May.

As if August through April aren't chaotic enough, this month rolls around. On top of all else on teachers', students' and parents' plates – like TAKS scores and finals and term papers – one has year-end events, banquets, concerts and more. Toss in such things as UIL playoffs and Little League. Oh, and did I mention commencement?

This all brings to mind a piece of legislation that Texas doesn't need. Pending an actual agreement on school finance, lawmakers are set to make school start uniformly after Labor Day and end a week after Memorial Day.

Though promoted for cost-savings, the proposal goes against the philosophy that school districts should be able to start school according to their needs. I'm no fan of starting in mid-August, but many districts do with the very valid intent of finishing fall semester and finals before Christmas break.

Pending approval, we have another example of lawmakers – who uniformly tout "local control" – telling schools what to do.

So add one more thing that makes May maniacal. The Legislature is still in session. If you're involved in education, that means every morning you open the morning paper with a wince.

What new hoops will lawmakers erect for teachers to earn their paychecks in the name of "accountability"?

Will foes of "government schools" try a stealthy way to enact school vouchers? (Answer last week: Yes, attached to a sunset bill for the Texas Education Agency.)

How close to "adequate" have lawmakers steered the ship of state in funding schools while telling teachers to row at ramming speed? Lawmakers think they've been master navigators on school finance. A judge may shoot a cannonball through that.

Meanwhile, the chaos of a concluding school year continues – outdated books returned to the shelf so they can be one more year removed from current; teachers assessing their next set of impossible missions.

All of which reminds me of one more reason Texas shouldn't require schools to continue classes into June. Some of us already have more May than we can stand.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:


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