Only have a minute? Listen instead
This is in response to your Aug. 6 editorial on school choice.
The 14th Amendment to our nation’s Constitution requires only that when a state chooses to establish public education, every child must have equal access to schooling. However, the cost, quality and equality of that education are left to the states.
The Texas Constitution goes farther, stating in Article VII that, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” Again, note that there is no specific reference to quality, only that it be efficient and free. It also does not specify anything other than an education as known in 1876.
This broadly stated description has provided the path for violating one of its few constitutional requirements, that it be a single system, presumably equal for all. Why then do we have the current clamor to set up a second “charter school system”? The answer is simple. It’s because Texas has failed miserably, being 28th out of 50 state systems, in carrying out its constitutional mandate. How did this happen?
Over nearly 150 years the state and school districts have taken the easy route and confused wants with needs. Where a single language was needed for efficient and effective instruction, a second language was permissible in classroom instruction. Where technical, science, math and even vocational classes were needed to prepare students for life in the 21st century, few were offered to all. Where discipline was needed it was not applied. When political evidence of improved performance was needed, separate Texas tests and standards were established differing from national measurements. Then, how to succeed on these tests was taught in the classroom to the students’ scholastic detriment and taking the national ACT test was discouraged.
All this time extracurricular activities such as swimming, football, basketball, soccer, band, various social clubs, etc., occupy the students’ time, require costly facilities and further drain the school tax dollars that now require 47% of our excessive and increasingly scarce property tax dollars.
More recently, this deficiency having been noted in Austin, politicians have called for an alternative to our “public schools,” which they fail to admit have not provided high quality education. After all, quality was not specified in the Constitution, unless that’s the “efficiency” part. Politicos have in fact torpedoed education by consistently lowering standards to provide elevated, inaccurate but politically popular statistics.
Also, how do they equate a “free education” of any efficiency with citizens paying 47% of their property tax and that amount still being less than 76% of the 50 states? Follow the money.
What do these separate “charter” schools and their sponsors believe they can do that properly run public education cannot? Who guarantees that they will be held to high standards or that their mere existence, sharing property tax dollars, will not negatively impact public schools? What magic bullet will the charter schools be given that the existing public schools have been denied for 150 years? There is no lack of freedom of educational choice in Texas; 310 parochial, private and military schools exist for those parents who want specialized religious, scholastic or other instruction for their children.
When you consider your position on charter schools you should also consider the following:
Charter schools are not subject to Texas class size limitations.
Charter schools are not required to have contracts with their professional employees or pay equivalent wages.
Charter schools do not have to provide transportation for students.
They can accept students only from their specified geographic area.
They are funded from the same source as ISDs.
Why do we need more buildings, personnel and expenses to serve the same number of students?
Once a charter is approved, what control do parents or the state have over its operation?
Finally, are charter schools the first attempt to inject elitist affluenza, separation and religious/political preference into the public school system? Are they an attempt to further rip apart the fabric of America?
The only objective for Texas schools should be to provide the best possible education equally to all its children. Will Charter Schools help or hurt?
Ned Sheats lives in Mission.