August 14, 2008
I love the Olympics. I enjoy them so much that I actually try to work my schedule so I can watch as much as possible.
Let’s say I get a little focused. Maybe too much.
A few nights back, the four of us were eating dinner (and, of course, waiting for the Olympics to start in prime time), when Preston, our college boy, said, “Dad, Cooper says he wants to go to the Olympics.”
Cooper is our 13-year-old who’s getting ready to start eighth grade, so I already may have missed my chance to work him out 8-to-10 hours a day in preparation for his gold medal in 2016. Nevertheless, and maybe in anticipation of a shoe contract, I asked, “What sport?”
Both children and their mother jerked their heads (in a synchronization that would have rivaled those Chinese divers) to look at me like I’d lost my mind. Coop just started laughing. Preston grinned and explained, like one might explain something to a young child, “He wants to go to the next Olympics to watch them.”
I swear I could hear both boys think, “He’s nuts.” They’re both so like their mom.
I want to write about a recent news story that Texans should take a long look at.
This month, the Texas State Teachers Association filed a lawsuit to block the state from giving public education money to three private groups.
This particular money was part of a pool that’s meant to reduce the state’s overwhelming dropout rate. Mostly, it’s being used by school districts and community colleges to keep kids in school.
In their lawsuit, the education advocates say these grants amounted to private school vouchers. The legislature, of course, hasn’t allowed such vouchers.
This week, a judge declined to block the grants, but the lawsuit can go on.
Education Commissioner Robert Scott argues that the state needs to look at every tool available in trying to bring down Texas’ massive dropout problem. There’s no doubt that’s true.
However, the debate at the Capitol seldom focuses on every tool, or even the problem we’re trying to solve – that per capita, no state has fewer adults over 25 with a high school diploma than Texas.
Instead, the leadership seems to focus on just one thing – vouchers to private groups with private agendas.
I have no doubt that many or even most of these groups do great work and are passionate about helping people. But I have deep reservations about giving them taxpayer money at the expense of public school districts that take on the tough, essential task of providing a free education to every kid that wants or needs one.
I’m learning about the three groups that received money, the services they’re supposed to provide with it, and why the TEA thinks these funds shouldn’t be going to agencies that taxpayers actually control. And I’m confident that this will be an issue in next year’s legislative session.
But in the meantime, this fight demonstrates why voucher opponents feel so strongly about this issue.
Texas has a massive dropout problem, one of the biggest in the country. The state demands a lot from school districts and doesn’t do enough to fund them, which leads directly to higher property tax bills that so many of us struggle with.
If, in the midst of these problems, the state is going to funnel money to private groups instead of our public schools, then it needs to happen in broad daylight with a vote of the legislature.
When, instead, it’s done quietly by unelected bureaucrats with no clear permission . . . well, people ought to be a little suspicious.