Thursday, June 2, 2011

Waving Goodbye to Public Education

Texas Legislature doing what it does best.... removing tax dollars from public education

by Peter Stern

Slightly more than 10 years ago the state provided up to 70 percent of the total budget for public education. Local government, mostly via home property taxes, provided the remaining 30 percent. Currently, those percentages are reversed and now the State is looking to provide even less to public schools in the Special Legislative Session under proposed Senate Bill 1 that seeks to cut public education financing down another 6 percent.

During the past decade legislators and various members of the elite business sector have given lip service to finding financing for Texas public education, but every year or two committees failed and fewer tax dollars were provided. The Texas Constitution outlines the State’s responsibility to provide our children with a quality education; however, every year the Governor and Legislators have taken chunks of tax dollars slated for public education and have diverted them instead to various other special interests.

Few Texans should be surprised that the State wants to remove more financing from public education, since it has been doing so almost every year for the past decade. However, it is a sad commentary on a State that is almost last on the list of states providing quality public education for Texas children. Currently, it is quite clear that there has been an active push by the State to develop private education and to eliminate its responsibility for public education. In fact, many legislators already sit on the boards of private, charter and religious schools. Special interests continue to push for a voucher program to enable parents to take their children from public education and use the vouchers for private enrollment.

Viewing the education issue completely, we may see that the State wishes to maintain educational objectives for the wealthy elite rather than for the majority of Texans. Furthermore, by crying budget poverty the State sees the opportunity to remove most or all tax dollars that finance public education and to divert those tax dollars to other special interests.

It is sad enough that Texas Governor [Rick Perry] and Legislators have no problem shirking their responsibility to the majority of children in Texas by cutting the financing for public education, but it is callous, irresponsible and un-American to remove educational opportunities for the majority of our children and their parents under the veil of secrecy and cries of State fiscal poverty.

Our legislators are trying to eliminate public education behind closed legislative doors. SB 1 is the largest attempt in any previous bill to eliminate the financing of public education for our children and it is a symptom of special interest politics permeating throughout Texas.

If the majority of voters sits back and does nothing, Texas may succeed as the first state in the U.S. to eliminate public education.

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