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Defending Students and Teachers: Promoting Public Education

 

Education should be a top priority. World-class education costs money, and similar to all other expenses, the costs increase every year. Teachers in Texas earn 72.8% of the salaries their college-educated peers earn, according to this recent study. We can’t expect to attract the kind of highly proficient teachers our children deserve if we won’t pay them properly. And we certainly can’t expect to attract and keep teachers when the Texas Legislature breaks its promises to retired teachers by underfunding the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). When the state of Texas makes a promise it should keep its promise. When elected I intend to see that Texas fulfills these promises.

We need to recognize that socio-economic inequality is the primary driver of the crises we’re facing, as this study makes clear, and these will not be addressed by satisfying the private-sector testing industry’s unquenchable thirst for excessive profits as the expense of our students, teachers, and their schools. The promotion of vouchers and charter schools is but further privatization of public education and the opposite of a solution to these problems.

Understanding the context of this crisis requires stepping back to the early part of this century before George W. Bush ran for president. Back then changes in population demographics were sending the educational testing industry into a death spiral. Their solution was to heavily invest in the candidacy of George W. Bush for president. He paid them back handsomely with his “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program, which is better understood to be “No Educational Testing Company Left Behind.” NCLB proved to be a boon for this profit-seeking private industry and has plagued education ever since.

One of the greatest disappointments of the Obama presidency was his appointment of Arne Duncan to head the Department of Education. The “Race to the Top” compounded the errors inherent in the privatizing approach inherent in NCLB, while ignoring the real source of the performance gaps our nation is confronting.

A study published in September 2017 by the Economic Policy Institute, “Education Inequalities at the School Starting Gate,” makes it clear that testing can, at best, only reveal the problem.

“Extensive research has conclusively demonstrated that children’s social class is one of the most significant predictors—if not the single most significant predictor—of their educational success. Moreover, it is increasingly apparent that performance gaps by social class take root in the earliest years of children’s lives and fail to narrow in the years that follow. That is, children who start behind stay behind—they are rarely able to make up the lost ground.”

The whole thrust of the state of Texas’s approach overlooks the socio-economic status of struggling school districts, preferring to blame teachers, principals, and students for poor results. Rather than addressing the fundamentals causing the problem, ISD’s are threatened with having to surrender their schools to management by private Charter organizations. This is the height of injustice. Unnecessary privatization by the testing industry is part of the problem and to compound it by imposing private sector solutions is totally unacceptable.

We need to work on solutions that build up our communities with sensible and effective economic development approaches, like those this campaign champions. The State of Texas and Nacogdoches can do much better than terrorize communities that have been neglected through no fault of their own. We must challenge our State and local leadership to rise to the occasion and not punish the victims of reckless privatization with more of the same.

 

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Paid For by Alec Johnson for Texas House District 11

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