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Public schools No. 1 campaign issue
Stats can be found for every political stance
By Chris Tomlinson Associated Press
Posted January 12, 2014 at 10:45 p.m., updated January 12, 2014 at 11:09 p.m.
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AUSTIN, Texas — Public schools are shaping up to become the top issue in the 2014
election campaigns, with Democrats complaining about Republican budget cuts and
conservatives calling for more choice and less government involvement in an issue that
impacts every Texan.
Expect candidates to offer a barrage of statistics about schools and student
achievement, since something can be found for every political persuasion. Money is
likely to be the biggest talking point, with Democrats complaining about cuts in per-pupil
spending and low salaries in Texas, while Republicans will say there is no correlation
between government spending and student success.
Fact checkers will find that both sides are about half right.
The Republican-controlled Legislature rewrote the formula for public school funding in
2011 to cut $5.4 billion from the state’s public education budget, the first such reduction
in spending since World War II. In 2013, the Legislature restored about $3 billion, but is
still not spending as much as it did in 2010. Texas teachers also make about $1,000
less a year than the national average, prompting many teachers to leave the field or
move elsewhere.
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Increased spending over time, though, does not result in commensurate increases in
student performance, conservative groups point out. Conservative Texas organizations
such as the Texas Public Policy Foundation argue that public schools need to change
the way they operate and use existing funds more efficiently before they get additional
taxpayer dollars.
Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered the state budget in 2011 and forced a
special session to protest the cuts in school spending, which eventually passed.
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Public schools No. 1 campaign issue » Standard-Times
“I do believe that education must be the No. 1 priority that we address as a state,” Davis
said at a round table at the University of Texas at Arlington on Thursday.
Democrats believe they can win over suburban mothers upset at the budget cuts made
at their schools. But Republicans are not ready to cede the issue, laying the blame on
teachers’ unions and tenure systems they say keep poor educators on the job.
“It’s time for Texas to set our sights on being No. 1 in education,” Republican
gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott told a conservative political conference on Friday.
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Abbott’s solution is more charter schools and allowing parents more leeway to choose
where to send their children. Davis wants to encourage the brightest students to become
teachers, and forgive their student loans when they work at public schools.
Expect the candidates to also debate curriculum, graduation standards and testing.
Christian groups continue to fight against teaching evolution, industry groups want bettereducated high school graduates and parents complain of too much testing. The
Legislature recently dropped the requirement that all students take Algebra II to graduate
from high school.
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The Texas Education Agency on Thursday said the number of schools falling short of
minimum standards doubled from 2012 because of newer, higher standards. That
means at least half the students at those schools have failed the accountability tests in
two of the three previous years or the schools were rated academically unacceptable in
2011 or “Improvement Required” last year. Texas ranked 47th in the nation in SAT
scores last year.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also joined the education debate, praising the progress in
student performance since 2000, when the state adopted a long-term strategy called
“Closing the Gaps 2015.” He called on Texas senators on Thursday to examine the
lessons learned and make a plan for the next 15 years.
There is no doubt that public education always has been, and likely always will be, a
challenge for the state’s leaders. The number of children growing up in poverty and
homes where English is not the first language is on the rise. The 2014 election allows
voters to choose whose vision they trust more for solving these problems.
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Striking the balance will be difficult at a time when, by some key measures, Texas
students continue to lag behind.
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Comments » 1
January 13, 2014
10:17 a.m.
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Railguy writes:
Oh Brother. . .not another year of listening to idiots from both parties trying to
say just a little more this or a little less that will help our failing education
system. The politicians of both parties in both the Federal and State level have
NO clue. As long as we have a "One size fits all", and "Everyone is educated to
a test so they can go to college" system we are DOOMED to failure. We need to
talk to our children, educated them all to a high school degree via two routes at
least. One route leads out of high school to advanced University studies and
the other route educates them in high school to a trade and job where they
know the basics and immediately have value to an employer.
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