During Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent visit to Bryan, he made a strong push for vouchers and, at the same time, made the assertion that such a program would not have a negative effect on Texas public schools. His statements deserve a very careful look.
I have served on the Bryan school board for a long time, and I have commented in the past why I am very passionate about Texas public schools. I am keenly aware of the commitment made by the teachers and administrators in our public schools. Not only to the brightest students who deserve to be challenged and rewarded for their efforts, but also to the disabled child who can barely communicate; to children who know little or no English and whose parents may not be able to assist with homework or projects; to the homeless and those in foster care; and to children who, perhaps through no fault of their own, struggle to manage their behavior.
The challenges public school teachers face as they try to meet the needs of each child can be overwhelming. It takes the best of the best, often spending long hours beyond the normal school day to succeed.
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They are truly doing God’s work as they provide success for many; and, just as importantly, perhaps the first ray of hope for some of our most vulnerable young people when others have given up on them. I know, because I have seen them in action.
My point is this: Texas public schools are incredibly valuable and are far more effective than they are given credit for. Yet they are currently in a worsening crisis largely because teachers and administrators have not received the compensation and support they need to meet the ever-increasing demands placed upon them.
This is confirmed by a recent poll conducted by the Charles Butt Foundation and Raise Your Hand Texas.
Gov. Abbott has said his voucher plan, despite carrying what will be a very hefty price tag, will not jeopardize public school funding and support.
Yes, Texas currently is flush with revenue. But what happens once this very large additional expense is part of the annual budget and the economy suffers its next inevitable downturn?
Public school funding has been cut before, and there will be even more pressure to do so next time in order to keep the voucher program afloat.
Parents always have had the right to choose private schools. The question is whether tax dollars should pay the cost of attending a school that is incapable of making the enormous commitment public schools have made; and more importantly perhaps, do not want to.
The ability of a private school to include or exclude specific students and not be subject to state accountability standards is often what makes them attractive to many people.
Recognizing that every child deserves a shot at a great education is why public schools were created in the first place.
Only public schools are governed by trustees elected by and answerable to the community, are publicly accountable for their academic successes and failures, are transparent with their budgets, and accept every child; no exceptions or excuses.
As long as good school board trustees are elected, parents will not be left in the dark but will be given every opportunity to be well-informed about their child’s education, including the curriculum and every important policy issue.
Parental input and involvement are welcome and encouraged in most districts, including Bryan. We owe our strength as a community and state to our public schools. They need our unified support now more than ever.