August 28, 2012
Yesterday was the first day of school here in Central Texas. Cooper Watson, our younger offspring, started his senior year at Austin High. (Man, it’s almost impossible to get my head around that.)
And Preston Watson, the elder of our progeny, started his MBA program, where he will be specializing in Digital Media Management. (Again, hard to get my head around that, but it’s more because I don’t think I understand what it means.)
Last week, Preston went through orientation and, during that time, he was elected Class Representative. I think they call it “Cohort” Representative. (Again, not sure what that means.)
When he told us about his election, he said that he “doesn’t really know why he raised his hand to volunteer.” Now, that’s something I do understand.
He has a genetic defect.
Also last week, we had a big press conference to lay out the economic and jobs benefits of the health care proposal on November’s ballot (known as Proposition 1).
This proposition will improve health care for people and families in Travis County, in part by expanding and improving health services that support a medical school at UT. It will help make Austin a center for the treatment of cancer and other major diseases, meaning folks will have more access to cutting-edge health care without traveling to Houston, Dallas and other cities. It will help fill Travis County’s need for physicians by creating a pipeline of new doctors right here in Austin, and it will save taxpayers money by helping the uninsured and under-insured to avoid expensive emergency room visits.
Oh, right, one more big thing: It will help create about 15,000 permanent jobs and $2 billion in economic prosperity.
Here are a couple of stories on the effort:
Like I said, the school year got started this week. This is a time for kids to celebrate the fact that they’re a little bit older, a little bit more grown up. It’s when they can step past the trials of the year before, knowing they’ve overcome them, and focus on the new challenges that will help decide their future success.
Ah, children, you have much to teach the Texas Legislature.
The opening bell for the legislature won’t ring for another four and a half months yet. But we can already see that some of our big tests next year are looking a lot like big tests from years past, especially when it comes to our schools. These are challenges that the people of Texas really need to see addressed, but that still haven’t been solved.
When our children can’t pass tests from the year before, they call it “flunking.” I’m still not sure what the legislative term is.
Seriously, I love Texas and its history. But Texas can do better when it comes to teaching our kids.
Instead of cutting school budgets – which those in control of the Capitol did so mercilessly last year – the state has got to create a fair system in which every Texas child can get a great education and contribute to our economy.
And let’s face it: while there are a lot of issues facing our schools, one of the biggest is declining support from the state. It’s time to demand that folks be accountable for addressing these issues.
The signs of the state’s past failures are easy to spot. Just ask teachers who are struggling with more students and fewer resources to teach them.
Statewide, a record high percentage of kindergarten-through-fourth grade classes have more students thanTexas law allows. The state’s responded not by providing more resources to teach more kids, but by granting more waivers to help districts avoid those requirements.
And then there’s the big school finance lawsuit that a majority of Texas’ districts have joined against the state, arguing that Texas’ school finance system isn’t adequate or efficient, despite the constitutional requirements that it be both. As this editorial puts it:
“Hope is a not a plan, but in this case, legislative leaders are hoping the courts will spare them the difficult chore of devising and mustering the support for a realistic way of financing schools … The legislative chambers have long since surrendered difficult decisions to the courts, and despite all the tough talk about making difficult decisions, not much appears to have changed.”
Texas can do better. It must do better. Our schools, our kids and our future depend on it.