Time to take it to the Capitol

The Austin ISD parents who have been protesting and demonstrating around town against proposals to close several neighborhood schools now have an opportunity to take their beef to some of the people who are ultimately responsible for the budgetary shortfalls plaguing AISD and hundreds of school districts across Texas.

The Senate Education Committee is holding a public hearing tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 1) at 10 a.m. in Room E1.028 in the underground Capitol extension. Untold thousands of parents and taxpayers throughout Texas are unhappy over the Legislature’s prolonged insistence on underfunding public education and shortchanging their school kids. So, a large (peaceful but determined) crowd of unhappy parents at the Capitol is long overdue.

Let me warn anyone planning to attend, however, that the “public” hearing will be monopolized by organizational matters and a list of invited witnesses, including school superintendents and organizations representing school administrators and school boards. TSTA also has been formally invited to the witness table.

Whatever time is left will be for uninvited public testimony meaning parents and most of the rest of the taxpaying public – and each speaker will be limited to three minutes of testimony. But parents don’t have to testify or even manage to squeeze into the room to make their presence known.

There likely will be an overflow room, from which observers can listen to testimony from the invited superintendents. Parents may find some of the administrators’ plans for classroom overcrowding, additional school closures and teacher furloughs and layoffs very interesting – and disturbing.

Disturbing enough, I hope, that they return to the Capitol frequently over the next few months. Maybe they will be joined by parents from other parts of the state. It is the only way they are going to get noticed – or heard – by legislators and, maybe, even the governor.

One more bit of advice. Those planning to attend tomorrow’s hearing better plan on arriving at the Capitol early to make sure they have time to negotiate the metal detector lines at the new security checkpoints

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