Editorial—“Dreaming of state officials who care about education”

The Longview News-Journal ran an editorial last weekend that fiercely criticizes the dereliction of state elected officeholders who talk a good game about improving public education but then fail to deliver needed resources. The opinion piece, entitled “Dreaming of state officials who care about education,” shows that the outcry from fed-up teachers and other school personnel is resonating with the wider public:

Here’s a sweet dream: One day, Texas will have a Legislature that actually works on making public education better, rather than relentlessly attacking its foundations.

Just a dream, we know, but it is also fun to imagine that not just the legislative branch of our government but those in the executive branch—governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and the rest—would do whatever they could to see that each of our state’s children can receive a good public education.

After all, that requirement is right there in the state constitution.

Of course, every election season we hear a great deal of flatulent speechifying about the importance of education. Come the legislative session, though, it turns into nothing but a bad smell.

One of the state’s latest assaults on school systems involves pre-K programs and, as is often the case, school superintendents had no idea it was coming.

Serious cuts have been made to funds given districts in 2015 to implement high-quality pre-K programs. That has hundreds of districts, including many in the Longview area, scrambling to continue meeting the programs’ requirements while funding is stripped.

The pre-K plan was a good one devised by Gov. Greg Abbott to provide Texas children with a running start on their classroom education. It worked well in the beginning, so we don’t understand why the Legislature saw fit to cut the funding or why Abbott did not stomp his feet when he saw what was happening.

Mind you, the cuts do not eliminate funding for all the district programs, they just reduce it, leaving local school officials wondering how they can possibly continue a high-quality program with less money to support the efforts.

That has put them in a no-win situation.

On one hand, if a district cuts the program, parents will—properly—complain about the decline in quality. If the district keeps the program, the money will probably have to come from cuts made in other areas that might also be worthy endeavors.

Don’t even think about raising taxes to make up the difference. The Legislature also has put all sorts of limitations on schools and the taxes they can assess.

It is enough to make the average Texan scratch his head and wonder if, by golly, his state government isn’t trying to kill public education completely. If so, it would be not with a fatal stab to the heart but death by a thousand cuts. Slow and painful.

Given what we have witnessed over the past several decades, it seems the only possible way to get more state support for public education is regime change, and that’s only going to happen when voters make legislators and other officials stand responsible for improving education.

That isn’t done by making schools or teachers jump through more hoops but by giving them the support they need to get their jobs done.

That should be the goal, of course, but it seems that idea has long ago gone by the wayside.

At the very least, the state should stop setting up districts for trouble by handing out money for good programs that state leaders have no intention of continuing to adequately support once they are operating.

Our state’s schools certainly have problems, but they are not nearly as fouled up as Texas government. Of course we would like better schools, but we need a better government first.

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