Trying to deny that money is important to education

 

An article about Austin’s Eanes ISD, posted yesterday on TSTA’s Facebook page, made a strong point for the fact that money is critically important for public schools. But some people – and not just our elected state leaders – will continue to deny reality, or at least try to spin themselves into denial. Don’t let them spin you.

The story from the Houston Chronicle noted that Eanes, home to Westlake High School in a wealthy suburban area of West Austin, is the best school district in the state and the second best in the nation, according to Niche, a school rating website. The article also notes that the district spends more than $18,000 per student each school year, about double the state average and several thousand dollars more than the national average as well.

This pays for a lot of good teachers, computers, the best instructional aids, reasonable class sizes – all the ingredients for a quality learning environment. This level of expenditure certainly is not representative of Texas public schools as a whole. Nor is the Eanes demographic mix. Eanes’ students are mostly while, while most Texas public school students are minority and low-income.

Deliberately or not, however, one Facebook respondent missed the point of the story, and I am noting his comment because it so clearly mirrors the attitude of the state leadership, which continues to under-fund public schools in general and denies money is an issue.

This reader wrote that the article “implies that if we throw more money at a school that students will magically begin to learn.” He admitted that money can “help make things easier,” but added, “To insinuate that others can’t reach the same level because of economic status is the kind of ‘entitlement society’ thinking that leads to false hope.”

In the first place, the state of Texas has never “thrown” money at public schools. The last time I checked, average spending per pupil in Texas, based on average daily attendance, was about half what Eanes spends and about $2,000 less than the national average. Some school districts are spending less now per student than they did before the legislative majority cut $5.4 billion from public education five years ago.

The “entitlement society” remark is a tired old relic that also misses the point. Many low-income children in property poor school districts do very well academically, thanks to their hard work and the hard work of dedicated, underpaid teachers. But we will never know how many more students from those same schools also could prosper if their teachers had more help and more resources.

Entitlement? Yes, under the Texas Constitution, every child in a Texas public school is entitled to a quality education and an equal chance at success. It is a basic constitutional right that the governor and the legislative majority are failing to fulfill and, in the process, dashing the hopes of thousands of Texas children.

 

 

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