Monthly Archives: May 2012

Romney: No Friend of Public Education

Now that Mitt Romney has secured the Republican presidential nomination, he no longer has to convince a majority of Republican primary voters that he is a Neanderthal who believes the Earth really may be flat. Now, he feels the need to convince a majority of Americans that he cares what they care about – a quality public education system. (Call it an EtchaSketch moment.)

But he is falling flat on his face.

So far, Romney’s “education policy” consists of attacks on teachers’ unions and President Obama and endorsements of longstanding, pieinthesky proposals to privatize education through expansion of charters and diversion of tax dollars to private schools through “school choice” vouchers. He is perpetuating the myth that charter schools are the magic solution for educational ills when, in truth, charters on the whole are no better or no worse than traditional public schools. Instead of improving the public schools, Romney would tear them down in order to enrich charter and private school operators.

I don’t care how many presidential candidates, governors and entrepreneurial education “experts” (holding out their hands for tax dollars) laud these cherrypicking alternatives. The vast majority of children will continue to be educated in traditional public schools, and that’s where our tax dollars need to be spent.

Romney’s antipublic school stance now should be no surprise. As governor of Massachusetts, he cut education funding and student aid. He and Rick Perry share a dim view of the public schools and have little empathy for young people of modest means trying to make it through college.

Romney’s education budget cuts in Massachusetts had the same effect as Perry’s education budget cuts in Texas. Teaching jobs were lost, class sizes increased and educational quality suffered. As president, Romney would take the same ax to the federal public education budget.

Like Texas’ budgetslashing governor and legislative majority, Romney says he doesn’t believe that class size matters, despite an overwhelming amount of research to the contrary. (Check it out by clicking on the link at the end of this post.)

Class size does matter. And, so do elections. As president, Romney would be for public education on a national scale what Rick Perry is for public schools in Texas – bad news.

Former math teacher promoted public schools

Texas’ public schools lost another champion this week with the death of former State Rep. Ernestine Glossbrenner of Alice. Her passing follows by a few weeks that of former State Sen. Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, who also worked hard for the public schools and the people who work in them.

Glossbrenner, whose 16year legislative career overlapped with part of Truan’s, was a former math teacher when she arrived in Austin in 1977, and she brought her experience to the legislative arena. Even then, fights for smaller class sizes, stronger learning environments, higher teacher pay and adequate and equitable school funding weren’t easy. But thanks to legislators like Glossbrenner, who gave public schools and teachers more than lip service, public education was a true priority in the statehouse. During her tenure, students, their teachers and other school employees benefited from sound advances in educational policy and working conditions.

Promoting public schools was a given in that era. The questions addressed by Glossbrenner and her colleagues were about how and to what degree the state should invest to improve schools and support educators. Contrast that to today, when the governor and the legislative “leadership” are intent on tearing down the public schools in favor of privatization.

Friends and former colleagues will remember Glossbrenner’s dedication and contributions at a memorial service at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) in the House chamber in Austin. She will be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

Known as “Ernie” by friends, colleagues and education advocates, Glossbrenner chaired the House Public Education Committee and was a lifetime TSTA member. She was honored with TSTA’s Friend of Education Award and in 1992, on the eve of her retirement from the Legislature, became the first inductee into TSTA’s Hall of Fame.

“What teachers do is so important,” Glossbrenner told the delegates to TSTA’s state convention in Dallas that year. “We cannot have a United States of America if the public schools close. We can’t even have a semblance of freedom if the public schools close.”

She warned TSTA members and other educators to take nothing in the public arena for granted but to remain vigilant and politically active. “We all have a responsibility…(to) do everything we can to see to it that people who will lead public education are elected,” she added.

Her message was important then, and, today, its importance is crucial.

Graduation: A time to celebrate and…

If you will allow me a personal note, I helped my daughter, Taylor, celebrate her graduation last weekend from the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a bachelor of science in biology. A graduation alone is cause for celebration, but this one was particularly noteworthy to me because it was accomplished in four years and left Taylor debtfree, which is becoming more and more of a rarity in these days of everincreasing tuition, diminishing student aid and recovering economy.

Taylor was in high school when greed, incompetence and malfeasance by people with huge incomes devastated our economy and wiped out a large chunk of her college fund and the college funds of thousands of other young people throughout the country. As a result, many of those kids and their families incurred heavy debt, while others may even have given up on college.

My family was more fortunate than many, and I am grateful. But college is an unnecessarily tough financial struggle for many middle and lowincome families in Texas, where the state “leadership” has chosen to deliberately underfund higher education and slash student aid while forcing university regents to increase tuition virtually every year. (The twoyear tuition freeze recently imposed at UTAustin, although welcome, was largely a political ploy on the part of the governor, not a permanent funding solution.)

This year’s college graduates – and their families – deserve our congratulations. Our socalled state “leaders” deserve a kick in the behind until they enact sound funding policies for higher education that promote, rather than deter, learning opportunities.

Perry’s fable about college costs

His disaster of a presidential campaign notwithstanding, Gov. Rick Perry apparently believes he can still fool most Texans all the time. Consider a dance he had with reporters in San Antonio yesterday when asked about the future job security of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers.

The governor denied a report he had tried to have Powers fired because Powers tried to win, over Perry’s opposition, another tuition increase at UT’s flagship. Then he added, “I don’t think it’s any big secret that I’m for keeping the cost of education down, so my suspicion is that no one in Texas thinks that I’m for tuition growth.”


The cost of higher education for Texas students and their families has soared since Perry signed the law deregulating university tuition in 2003. That law was a key part of a deliberate, calculated policy to reduce appropriations for universities and replace it with higher student costs in the form of everescalating tuition.

Tuition at UTAustin has increased by more than 200 percent since the fall of 2003, and regents (Perry appointees who don’t have to answer to the voters) have imposed huge increases at other university campuses as well. And although UT regents agreed to freeze tuition at UTAustin for the next two years, as requested by the governor, tuition will continue to rise at other universities.

Meanwhile, also thanks to Perry’s budgetslashing policy, the amount of financial aid to deserving students continues to fall. Millions of dollars were cut last year from TEXAS grants, the state’s basic financial aid program. That means thousands of students and their families are digging deeper into their own pockets, or going deeper in debt. Still others are being forced to give up on their dreams of a college education.

The minor reprieve at UTAustin to the contrary, Perry is a major reason that many Texas young people are struggling to stay in school – or being priced out before they can get in.

Someone’s pants are on fire.