Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where is the bailout for Education? #txlege

A colleague shared a thought with me earlier today, and it has been bothering me ever since. The thought was: Why was our country willing to bail out for-profit organizations (which were mismanaged until it was impossible for them to recover) but when it comes to non-profit educational institutions, the coffers are empty?

Why is it that companies like GM and AIG were worthy of our tax dollars, but not education? Why are companies that were giving out millions of dollars in bonuses (while being bailed out) seen in a better light than education? Are these companies really more critical to the success of our state (and nation) than educating our children? I struggle to see the logic here.

Consider the following facts (as shared here by Michael Gilbert of White Oak ISD):
"The fact is, the US Education System ranks 20th in the world, according to the United Nations Education Index"
  • The combined population of the nineteen countries ranked higher that the US are not equal to the population of the USA.
  • Only seven of the countries ranked higher that the US have a population greater than New York City.
  • Only five of those countries have a population greater than the State of Texas.
  • None of the countries ranked above the US are regularly mentioned as economic rivals the US.
  • Japan ranks #34, China ranks #97 and India ranks #145.
"One of the most often heard complaints is that the increase in expenditures has not resulted in an increase in results. Although there has been an increase in total dollars spent on Texas Education, there has not been a significant increased in the cost per student. Texas adds 85,000 new students to the rolls every year."
Now consider this (as posted here by Spring Branch ISD):
In 2005, state property taxpayers were told by the Texas Legislature that their property taxes would be lowered and that the funding loss to our schools would be made up through other taxes or revenue sources, including a new business or "margins" tax. That promise to make up for the funding loss has not been kept. The Texas Legislature must honor its commitment and restore this funding.
In 2006, the state froze school district revenue at the 2006 level. Since that time, in order to fund basic inflationary cost increases, including cost-of-living increases for our teachers, SBISD has made difficult non-campus reductions and used its savings to limit the direct effect on our classrooms.

Yes, education spending has gone up over the years, but as Mr. Gilbert pointed out that is largely due to the number of new students enrolled in the educational system every year. In other words: spending has not gone up over time due to mismanagement or wildly extravagant purchases. Nobody is getting million dollar bonuses, and as Spring Branch ISD pointed out, Texas hasn't even allowed for a cost-of-living increase since 2006. Furthermore, the current fiscal problem in Texas was created, not by the local education agencies, but by a poorly thought out tax reform.

Where is all the fat in this system? I can't seem to find it. At this point the only thing left to cut will be crucial programs that are vital to the success of instruction. And when we do that we hamstring our state (and nation). We will literally cut the feet out from underneath ourselves. How can we let this happen?

I leave you with one final question: Does it make sense that we should prioritize GM, AIG and other big businesses over our educational system? My answer is NO!