The Democrats’ views on public education

After posting the item the other day listing some of the ways in which the recently adopted Texas Republican Party platform would cripple public education, I received a comment from a reader challenging me to be “fair” and also post the “ultraliberal” Democratic education proposals.

Well, I was planning to post portions of the Democratic platform but was going to wait until after the party had actually adopted one for the current election year. That won’t happen until the Democrats hold their state convention at the end of next week. In the meantime, though, I will list some key parts of the Democrats’ 2008 education platform. The 2010 platform likely will be very similar because Democrats for years have been strong supporters of the public schools.

Here are some traditional Democratic education goals likely to remain in the party’s new platform:

# An equitable school finance system that is sufficiently funded by the state so that every district can offer a strong program.

# The state should improve its education funding so that local taxpayers get relief from the socalled “Robin Hood” law that takes local tax dollars from local schools. (The Republican platform advocates a reduction in state funding, which would increase Robin Hood’s raids on local taxpayers.)

# Raise teacher and support staff pay.

# Don’t spend precious tax dollars on private school vouchers, a longtime Republican priority.

# Make dropout prevention and recovery a priority for each school district. (Unless I missed it, the new Republican platform doesn’t say a word about dropouts, one of the biggest economic and social problems facing Texas today.)

# Stop extremists from controlling or censoring curriculum and textbooks. (The Republican platform wants to give the outofcontrol State Board of Education more authority over curriculum and textbooks and oversight of the entire Texas Education Agency.)

# Enforce and extend class size limits, an effective contributor to learning that some Republican legislators will try to weaken next year.

# Protect bilingual education, which the Republican platform wants to weaken, despite continued growth of Hispanic enrollment in the public schools.

# Provide universal access to prekindergarten and kindergarten. (The Republican Party opposes mandatory preschool and kindergarten.)

# Provide early intervention programs to help every child read at or above grade level.

There are other planks, but you can see the major differences between the two parties. Not everyone is going to agree with every Democratic plank. But I think most Texans who value the public schools and honestly want to improve them recognize the Democratic goals as largely mainstream. Only people who are isolated so far to the political right that they are light years removed from the middle would consider them “ultraliberal.” Either that or they have a very limited political vocabulary.

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