Ds and Rs: Worlds apart on public schools

Texas Democrats adopted a new party platform at their state convention last weekend, and as I predicted a couple of weeks ago, the education section is similar to previous Democratic platforms and is strongly supportive of the public schools

The Democratic Party, as an institution, has such a high regard for public education that its platform addresses that issue first, right after the preamble. By contrast, the Texas Republican platform, which I summarized after it was adopted earlier this month, reflects a skeptical and, at times, hostile attitude toward the public schools. It was written by archconservatives with a strong interest in promoting homeschooling and private education.

I don’t want to repeat everything I already have written, but here are a few key, fundamental differences:

# Democratic platform writers recognized a basic problem: the public schools are underfunded and inequitably funded by state government. They called on state government to “establish a 100 percent equitable school finance system with sufficient state revenue to allow every district to offer an exemplary program,” while reducing the “Robin Hood” raids on local tax dollars.

Republicans ignored the funding problem and proposed that state government squeeze the public schools even more. That would be the net effect of GOP platform proposals to put more restrictions on local property taxes, repeal the new state business tax and require a twothirds vote of the Legislature to raise any other taxes.

# Democrats proposed raising teacher and support staff pay to levels exceeding the national average and extending quality statefunded health insurance to all education employees. Those goals would be impossible to meet under the Republicans’ plan for drying up tax revenue.

# Democrats recognize the severity of the dropout problem and propose several attacks on it, including expanded access to early childhood education programs that target atrisk students, matching more highly qualified teachers with atrisk students and enforcing daytime curfew laws to reduce truancy. The new Republican platform doesn’t say a word about dropouts, but it would worsen the problem by abolishing governmentsponsored early childhood development programs and opposing daytime curfews for juveniles.

# Democrats would reign in the ideologydriven decisions of the State Board of Education over curriculum standards and textbook content, while the Republican platform would give the board even more authority over public education, including oversight of the entire Texas Education Agency.

For more differences, you can check out my blog posts for June 15 and 18 or click on the links below for each party’s platform and scroll down to the education sections.

Here is a link to the new Democratic platform:

http://www.txdemocrats.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/06/TDP2010Platform.pdf

And here is a link to the Republican platform:

https://www.18889322946.ws/TexasGOP/EContentStrategy/userfiles/2010_RPT_PLATFORM.pdf

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