Category Archives: education news

School choice next up for debate

There is something profoundly counterintuitive about asking people to pull their money out of public education and using that money to pay for others to enroll their children in private schools.

That, however, is what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants the Legislature to do when it meets in a special session next month. I cannot think of a more harebrained idea than this.

Those of us who ardent supporters of public education are going to fight this notion. It turns out that Democratic legislators along with their rural Republican colleagues oppose this idea. For the life of me I don’t understand why the state is seeking to cripple public education in this manner.

I read recently where the Amarillo Independent School District is losing students to private schools already. Texas funds its public school system based on enrollment, so now the state wants to accelerate that decline by giving parents taxpayer money to pull their children out of public schools and enrolling them in private institutions?

I don’t get it.

“There’s an easy way to get it done, and there’s a hard way,” Abbott said on a tele-town hall about the issue. “We will take it either way — in a special session or after an election.”

Abbott says special session on school choice coming in October | The Texas Tribune

That sounds like an ultimatum to me.

Public education is an investment I happen to be willing to make. That the governor would want Texas to make it easier to injure the public school systems in the state is an utterly astonishing policy decision.

College stands tall

Someone will have to help me solve a mystery about a community my wife and I called home for more than 23 years.

Of all the public institutions with which we dealt over the years, only one of them — Amarillo College — has remained unscathed by tension, turmoil, tumult. AC recently bid adieu to its latest president, Russell Lowery-Hart, who has become chancellor of the Austin Community College System.

He received a rousing sendoff from the college and the community that supports it. Contrast that with the recent departure of Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller, who basically got canned by the City Council over differences between Miller and council policy direction.

I will acknowledge it hasn’t always been this smooth at AC. I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995 and became acquainted immediately with former AC president Bud Joyner. Fred Williams and Steve Jones followed Joyner; Williams’ tenure didn’t go quite so well. Then came longtime AC administrator Paul Matney’s turn as president. He restored the college’s standing in grand fashion, guiding the school to expanding its presence in communities outside of Amarillo.

You want some more contrast? How about the dust-up with the Canyon ISD over curriculum and books being offered to students? Then we have the 2019 brouhaha in the Amarillo ISD over the resignation of a high school volleyball coach and her assertion that an AISD trustee had meddled in the way the coach was doing her job.

Meanwhile, Amarillo College has continued to flourish, continued to expand its reach into the community. It has restored intercollegiate athletic offerings to its students, plastering the Badger image all over the main campus on Washington Street to remind us of the school’s athletic team nickname and mascot.

AC has selected an interim president. The board of regents will look for a permanent president in due course. The good news for the regents, I’ll venture a guess, will be that it won’t be in a huge hurry to find a permanent president, given the school’s current solid condition.

Back to my initial inquiry at the top of this post. Is there a way for AC to market its formula for success and pitch it to other public institutions that have struggled with maintaining the trust of its constituents?

Memo to pols: No meddling allowed

My thoughts turned immediately to a story I followed for a time up yonder in Amarillo when I heard about the Granbury school trustee getting censured by her colleagues for sneaking around a high school library.

There was a certain parallel that shouldn’t be repeated.

The Granbury ISD board censured trustee Karen Lowery for pestering school library officials over the books they were allowing to be read by students. Lowery went through the high school library in the dark, using a smart-phone flashlight to look at book titles she might find objectionable. She also lied about her involvement.

The school board was right to censure her, even though Lowery insists she didn’t do anything wrong. Well, actually, she did merely by injecting herself into the administration of policy.

This issue reminded me of the time — in 2019 — when an Amarillo ISD trustee, Renee McCown, pestered an Amarillo High School volleyball coach, Kori Clements, over the lack of playing time McCown’s daughter was getting under the coach’s leadership.

Clements, who served for just a year as coach in what she had described as her dream job, resigned and then stated in her letter to the school board that the trustee had applied undue — and improper — pressure on her to give her daughter more playing time.

Well, the trustee ended up resigning, but the school board should have shown the mettle demonstrated by the Granbury board by censuring McCown. Instead, the Amarillo ISD board remained stone-cold silent.

There is a lesson to be learned here. It is that elected public officials have no business getting involved in the administration of policy. Period. Full fu**ing stop!

This book-banning business that has infested school districts throughout Texas and the nation has given rise to the potential for the meddling we witnessed in Granbury. A censure delivered by a governing body has no actual effect on anything, other than to state for the record that the offending official has been sanctioned.

Lowery only made matters worse in Granbury by lying to authorities and sneaking into the library under false pretenses. The deal is, though, that she was motivated to act inappropriately because of the book-ban movement that has lit fires in school communities everywhere.

Let us be cognizant of politicians’ roles here. They do not include meddling in the work of the employees they hire.

Slavery was ‘good’ for Blacks? Umm … no!

Florida students are getting a serious dose of propaganda courtesy of the government of that seriously crazy state.

The state is now requiring public schools to teach curricula that states that Blacks actually derived some “benefit” from slavery. Yep. That’s the state now governed by an idiot who wants to become the next POTUS.

Ron DeSantis, a Republican (of course), wants to soft-pedal the nation’s bleakest chapter in its storied history by suggesting that Blacks drew benefit by being considered three-fifths of a human being and by being “owned” by slaveholders, the way they owned, oh, cattle or farm equipment.

We fought a Civil War over slavery. Florida was on the losing side of that bloody conflict. To suggest that human beings could derive some benefit from being owned by other human beings is as disgusting a public policy as anything I ever have heard.

Equal protection in jeopardy? What?

The U.S. Supreme Court, in my un-learned view, took an unusual tack in striking down college and university affirmative action admission policies this week.

It said the schools no longer can use a person’s race to help determine whether he or she should be admitted, but left the door open to allowing schools to determine whether the college applicant has suffered from discrimination as a result of his or her race.

That’s a fairly narrow decision, yes?

Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion written for the court majority, though, says affirmative action violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause contained in the 14th Amendment.

Hold on!

Affirmative action became law for the very same reason! Students were denied equal protection because they were being discriminated against on the basis of their race.

I am left to wonder: Which is it? Which of these policies is unconstitutional? Denying someone entrance because of their race or giving them opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have?

I am going to stick with the former definition, siding with those who believe affirmative action policies are the suitable remedies to denying students equal access to education.

Yes, every vote counts!

Does every single vote count? Yeah! That’s surely the case involving a bond issue in Bonham, Texas.

The Bonham public school district asked voters there to approve a $64 million bond issue to spend money to refurbish and renovate a junior high school campus.

The vote total? 879 votes for, 877 votes against.

How does one describe “razor thin”? I guess the Bonham Independent School District tally would fall into that category.

The successful measure comes after Bonham ISD voters rejected similar bond issues twice before. They went down in 2022. So the district came back to find that its margin, while still not significant, is enough for Bonham ISD to declare victory.

As KETR-FM radio reported: The plan calls for new classrooms, renovations to existing classrooms, safety and security improvements, a new cafeteria, a new band hall, and a new multipurpose facility.

So … if you believe that your vote doesn’t matter, look no further than these results.

Princeton ISD voters speak out, however …

I want to offer a tepid endorsement of the decision rendered this past weekend by voters who live in the Princeton Independent School District.

Those who bothered to vote have endorsed a $797 million bond issue to build several new campuses over the next decade. The amount of the bond issue is gigantic, but it is needed in light of the explosive growth that is occurring — and will continue — within the Princeton ISD.

That’s the good news, and it is very good news, indeed.

However, let’s examine something else. The final unofficial vote totals are, to put it simply, abysmal. Princeton ISD officials said that 597 votes were cast in support of the bond issue, compared to 302 votes cast against it. That’s a 66.4% to 33.6% difference. Not even close!

What drives me to the edge of nuttiness, though, is that local elections do not seem to gin up any interest. I don’t have any hard data on the eligible rolls of voters within the school district. The population of the school district is something a bit north of 20,000 residents. Of that total, my rule of thumb puts the number of eligible voters at about half.

So, if that estimate holds up, that puts the percentage of turnout at less than 9%.

I am compelled to ask whether, therefore, the 597 votes in favor of this bond issue constitute a “mandate.” It most assuredly doesn’t come close to a mandate.

What we have here is a case of a few people making decisions for others.

I long have been a champion for greater voter turnout as a way to spread the power throughout a large base. The turnout for Saturday’s critical bond issue invests far too much power in far too few Princeton ISD constituents.

Our democratic process works better when more of us take part.

Don’t misconstrue me on this point. I am delighted that the bond issue received the endorsement it got. The school system was transparent in developing the proposal. It made its recommendation in full public view.

I only wish more of us would have responded at the ballot box.

Retired teachers could get a needed raise

Remember that big surplus that Texas legislators found when they convened their session in January? Well, they have found a way to spend some of it … and the cause is a worthy one, indeed.

The Texas House of Representatives has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would give retired Texas teachers a raise in their pensions. The House vote was unanimous, which given the state of partisan politics these days is a huge statement for sure.

The amendment would allow the state to move $1.9 billion from the general fund to the teacher retirement fund, thus allowing the raise to take effect.

This is a good deal for the retired educators who spend their professional lives seeking to educate Texas’s children.

“These people teach our children; they taught us,” state Rep. John Bryan, D-Dallas, said. “We have a moral obligation to them.”

Yes, we do.

Texas House increases pension pay to retired teachers | The Texas Tribune

The bill is set to go to a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Let us hope the spirit of bipartisanship continues as conferees hammer out those differences and send the matter to the voters later this year.

Our retired educators deserve to be treated with the honor and respect they deserve.

WTAMU boss suffers big wound

Let’s see now … normally docile Canyon, Texas, which is home to West Texas A&M University is now in the midst of a potentially tumultuous time.

The WT faculty senate has voted significantly to post a no-confidence statement against the WT president, Walter Wendler.

The senate sent out 368 ballots to all full-time faculty and librarians. According to the Texas Tribune: Faculty senate leaders announced the results of the weeklong no-confidence vote Tuesday evening. According to faculty senate president Ashley Pinkham, there were 179 votes to condemn Wendler and 82 against it.

Faculty condemn West Texas A&M president after he canceled drag show | The Texas Tribune

I consider that a fairly clear statement that Wendler’s handling of a planned drag show on the campus didn’t go over well. As the Tribune reported: Wendler drew fire from students and free speech advocates last month when he canceled a student drag show last month arguing that the performances are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

I believe he made a mistake in canceling the drag show.

I also believe, based on the results of the no-confidence vote, that the WT president should consider retiring … again! I mean, when a significant majority of the men and women over whom you have authority cannot endorse your policy implementation, then well … maybe it’s time to hit the road.

Horrifying sign of the times

There can be no mistaking what is happening in school districts across Texas.

The Texas Senate has approved a bill that requires school districts to implement “active shooter” policies, or else face being taken over by the state education agency.

The legislation is in response to the Uvalde school massacre a year ago in which students and educators were gunned down by a madman.

This is a shocking and horrifying sign of the times in Texas … and everywhere else that has become victimized by the spasm of gun violence.

The Texas Tribune reports: Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would create a safety and security department within the Texas Education Agency and give it the authority to compel school districts to establish active-shooter protocols. Those that fail to meet the agency’s standards could be put under the state’s supervision.

Texas Senate passes bill to strengthen school active-shooter plans | The Texas Tribune

I happen to believe this is a reasonable approach to helping reduce the casualties inflicted by shooters. I didn’t think it would be possible to support such a move, but given the alternatives, it makes sense.

One of the alternatives is to arm teachers, give them the authority and ability to open fire on shooters. Bad idea! I continue to oppose the notion of asking teachers — individuals whose calling is to “educate” children — to take up arms and start firing weapons at individuals … hoping they don’t hit innocent victims in the melee.

With so many incidents erupting around the country, I welcome the Texas effort to force public school systems to enact policies aimed at dealing with this existential threat to the safety of our children and educators.

I suppose you can call this the 21st-century version of the “duck and cover” drills many of us once did while the nation was frightened about a possible nuclear attack.

This threat, though, is frighteningly real.