Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Insanity Of The 65 % Rule Is Starting To Show

It's the classic conservative ruse. As any marketer would say, "one of the first things we need to sell this product is a catchy name". And in this case it's "The 65% Rule" or what I will from here on out call "The 65% Ruse". But as I showed earlier this year "The 65% Ruse" is nothing more than a plan to bust the teacher's union and bring school vouchers into full bloom in Texas. It has absolutely nothing to do with improving education in Texas. Just like everything else conservatives do their goal is to take your tax money and give it to corporations.

Yesterday Gov. Perry's education task force held it's first meeting. But before the task force even got underway the head of the task force's executive assistant, sent out an email with some information for the task force members to look over. No surprise that it directed them to of our old friend and CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne's website, First Class Education:
The state education commissioner's office suggested last week that educators crafting a controversial new rule for classroom spending consult the Web site of a political group that quietly promotes private-school vouchers and creating chasms between teachers and administrators.
Wonderful, so now that the governor's corporate mandated strategy has been forced on the state we've got nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Not exactly. This article, School formula criticized from today's Dallas Morning News tells us all we need to know about what a ruse this plan already is in the first paragraph:
A rule that requires 65 percent of a school district's spending to go directly into the classroom sounds good, but the formulas being considered could allow districts to reach that goal by pouring more money into their football programs, education officials said Wednesday.
Yes it sounds good. Maybe some people can agree on that but like so many other things our current state leaders try it's the implementation that's the problem. The main problem the task force is having is defining what classroom spending is. So what does and doesn't constitute classroom spending?
Under the federal accounting system, classroom spending includes such things as the salaries of teachers and teacher aides, supplies, materials and regular, special and vocational education programs, as well as extracurricular activities.

Excluded are libraries, computer labs, guidance counselors, security, transportation and any administration.
More football coaches and less computer labs, that's just what I thought would fix the problems with education in Texas. Mrs. Neeley admitted yesterday that defining classroom spending is key:
Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, kicking off the task force meeting, said part of the challenge would be reaching a common, workable definition for what constituted classroom spending. And, she said, one formula might not work for everybody, especially in a state as large as Texas with more than 1,000 diverse school districts.

But the idea itself, she said, was a goal that everyone could rally behind.

"This is a golden opportunity," Dr. Neeley said.
It seems to me like she's saying, "Well, the way it's currently defined is bad for Texas but if we can define it the way we like then it will be good". The important thing to keep in mind about the definition is what the ultimate goal is - divide teachers and administrators to bust the union, and bring about vouchers. From there we can tell what about the definition won't change. Give teachers more money and starve the administrators and insure poor performing schools keep performing poorly. The next question is who will take the brunt of this?
Her association [Gwen Santiago, with the Texas Association for School Business Officials (TASBO)] also calculated that if the 65 percent formula were implemented, particularly hard hit would be rural districts with high transportation costs, small districts that might spend more on support services and bond debts, and districts with a high proportion of economically disadvantaged students, who require tutoring and other special programs.
Rural school districts were the biggest opposition to what the legislature was trying this pass earlier in the year. Is this payback? And of course like any good conservative plan the poor will get a large part of the burden. With Texas' unique situation because of size and diversity what works in Arizona and Minnesota probably won't work here:
Dallas school Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, a member of the task force, said the first order of business should be clarifying the numbers so that each district knows its starting point.

"One size does not fit all," Dr. Hinojosa said. "I don't want to mandate what they do in Dalhart."
That's a very good statement. As I've said before what things like "The 65% Ruse" are really good at pointing out is a long time conservative lie. For years, when they were out of power, they talked about local control and how important it was. Not anymore, as you can see, now that they control the state government. They are in favor of state control of how your local school district spends it's money. Here's my opinion, for what it's worth - instead of trying to fit Texas into a system we should be working to design a system that fits Texas.

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