Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Do You Believe In Public Education?

Last week in my post Fundamental Change, I pointed out some fundamental changes that we need to make, specifically in our local and state governments. Topping the list, we must have new leadership, along with a change to a more progressive tax structure, which would be a more just and fair way to fund public education in Texas. But before I return to those issues, there are two points that need to be made, and these two points will show the disconnect between Texans and our current leadership. First, Texans believe in public education. They also believe its funding should be a top priority. Does our current Republican leadership feel the same?

I don't believe there is a question anymore of whether or not we should have a public education system. Surely, an overwhelming majority will agree that it is worth the effort to educate our citizenry. It is an investment in our state's economic and social well being that will pay off for many years to come.

Since most people agree on that, why is it that the actions of our current Republican leadership in Texas would lead one to believe otherwise? If they believed in public education and funding it adequately, they would do it. Period. Instead, they are scheming and trying to find a way to do it without inconveniencing anybody who pays for their campaigns.

Is there a religious and/or corporate element to this, i.e. vouchers and charter schools? Well, the legislature's decision to waste valuable time on a school voucher proposal might make you think so. And when it turns out the only reason the proposal was tried is because it's a pet issue of one of the state's main Republican benefactors, it just might prove that point.

Apparently, they don't mind raising taxes on the poor, but they don't ever want to raise taxes on the wealthy--don't bite the hand that feeds you, right? To illustrate this, check out this latest tax trick the legislature pulled during the recently-concluded legislative session. This one was particularly heinous:
But this legislative session did duplicate one of the underhanded gimmicks used to balance the budget two years ago. It did so at the expense of the most needy Texans.

The trick came in the confiscation of money set aside by law for helping the needy with their electric bills. It's called the system benefit fund.
Leading the charge was none other than Williamson County's Senator Steve Ogden:
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the money could be better spent on other social services. But [Rep.] Turner said that by taking the money from electric bills and redirecting it to the general budget, lawmakers have effectively created a new tax.
There goes another Republican filling a budget gap at the expense of the poor. Why can't these guys, just once ask those with more to pay more? If they only took advantage of the less fortunate once in a while--or even most of the time--it wouldn't be so bad, but they do it every single time!

Where we spend our money shows what our priorities are, whether it's in our personal lives or as a society. When we shortchange those things that we determine to be essential, we suffer--as individuals, families, and communities. If we continue to shortchange education in Texas, it's obvious that the problem will not get better. It's not just money. We--parents, grandparents and residents of this state--have to make this a priority. How? Well, when a politician shortchanges education, or any other important issue for that matter, make sure you let them know about it and definitely don't vote for them anymore. Inform your friends, family, coworkers or that person in the checkout line about the issues. I know one person who tries to inform phone solicitors about political activism when they call her. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Our current leadership reveals their priorities by the way they handle the state's money, making it hard to tell whether, first of all, they believe in public education. Secondly, they make it hard to believe that they intend to fund it adequately. Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe in public education? Do those who are currently running this state believe in those things?


At 7/08/2005 9:17 PM, Blogger Skye said...

There are definitely some Republicans that don't believe in public education - witness Debbie Riddle's outburst last session about free medical care and education being ideas from Communist Russia and the pits of hell. :)


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