Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blame Texas PTA for no school finance bill

Aug. 20, 2005, 7:31PM


Blame Texas PTA for no school finance bill

School funding reform tanked for good reasons

AS the Texas Legislature ends its most recent special session in failure over school finance, the blame game has kicked into overdrive.

The speaker of the House blamed the Senate in radio ads across the state. The lieutenant governor blamed the House for its lack of action. The governor blamed both the House and Senate for not sending him a bill to sign.

The comptroller blamed the governor for a lack of leadership on school finance.

Next, the speaker blamed school superintendents.

So, who is really to blame for the Legislature's failure over three years, two regular sessions and three special sessions? Who is to blame for lawmakers' unwillingness to compromise on reforms and finances?

If state leaders must blame some group outside the Capitol, they can blame the Texas PTA and our 650,000 members. Parents who have written tens of thousands of e-mail messages and letters and placed hundreds and hundreds of phone calls to elected officials. You can blame the parents and taxpayers of this state for not allowing the Legislature to push through inadequate funding for our children's education and harmful regulatory changes disguised as "reforms."

You can blame PTA for opposing private school vouchers, a scheme which would strip millions of dollars out of the public education system and put the money into private hands with no accountability.

You can blame PTA for opposing the state mandating when schools will start throughout the state. We still believe in local control, and we believe that locally elected school board members have a better idea of when their schools should start than does the Legislature.

You can blame PTA for opposing state-mandated November school board elections. We do not believe that making school trustee elections partisan will help children learn to read and write.

You can blame PTA for demanding that textbooks be paid for with money the state board of education set aside for that purpose. You can blame us for expecting our children's textbooks to be delivered in a timely manner, not years later.

You can blame PTA for demanding better pay for classroom teachers so the best and the brightest can be attracted to the profession and will stay in our neighborhood schools for many years.

You can blame PTA for demanding that adequate funding for public education come before property tax reduction. We are at a loss as to why the leadership is consumed with lowering a tax rate that is set by an elected body, your local school board.

You can blame PTA for opposing the one-cent tax increase in the sales tax, making it the highest rate in the country.

You can blame PTA for demanding that all 4.4 million students in Texas public schools have a significantly equal opportunity to receive an excellent education. You can blame PTA for saying that "adequate" is not good enough; we expect better.

Why can't the Legislature pass something? You can blame PTA for that because parents told lawmakers that no bill is better than a bad bill and all the leadership proposed were bad school finance bills.

We are the Texas PTA 650,000 parents, teachers and others who care about children. And taxpayers. You can blame PTA if you want. But if you think there have been lots of calls, letters and e-mails in the past three years, just wait. Keep under-funding our children's schools, keep trying to disguise political agendas as "reforms," keep protecting the tax system that favors the business community, keep using textbook money for other purposes, keep squabbling amongst yourselves over your own petty agendas.

If you think you have heard from parents and taxpayers already, just wait. What you have heard before is a gentle spring rain of discontent compared to the ocean of disappointment and frustration that is ready to wash up on your shores.

Tounget is executive director of the Texas PTA.
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