The importance of making greater public investments in our children – all our children, not just a handful who would win a voucher lottery – has been highlighted again in a new report, which is discussed in a New York Times column linked below. Unfortunately, the people who really need to read it, including many of our alleged state “leaders,” probably won’t bother.
The report by the Center for American Progress discusses the heavy investments that China and India, our giant global economic competitors, are making to increase educational opportunities from preschool to college. Clearly, our competitors are investing to prepare their children for the jobs they will be taking from many young Americans in the very near future.
The report notes how unfavorably the United States compares in terms of its overall commitment to children, including investments in early childhood education, poverty reduction and health care. More than 22 percent of American children lived in poverty in 2010, and more than one-fourth have chronic health problems that harm their ability to learn.
How are Texas’ “leaders” preparing Texas children for a very competitive future? Let’s see, first they slashed $5.4 billion from public school budgets, a short-sighted decision that reduced pre-kindergarten opportunities, reduced dropout prevention programs, reduced elective choices and increased the sizes of most other classes. The leadership also cut billions of dollars from health care programs, ensuring that thousands of children won’t stay healthy enough to attend school regularly.
In short, the governor and the legislative majority took a huge ax to the critical resources that Texas students and teachers need to succeed. And, they are not done yet.
Now, instead of taking advantage of a rapidly improving economy and increased tax collections to restore the funding cuts, they are preparing to siphon off even more public tax dollars to enrich private school owners. Their proposed voucher plan – which they have misnamed a “choice” program – wouldn’t give the vast majority of Texas students and their parents any choice at all. It would benefit only a handful of students while cutting even more tax dollars from the public schools that most children will still attend – and spend that money instead to support private schools.
Michael Williams, Gov. Perry’s new appointee as state education commissioner, is a long-time advocate of vouchers. And, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst endorsed the idea this week, as he announced plans to seek reelection to another term in 2014.
Dewhurst said he wanted to “continue serving to help move this state forward.” Huh? If he really wants to move this state forward, he better do an about face.