Tag Archives: public education

Give up voucher fight

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he is “in it to win it” as he fights to gut the state’s public education system in search of a voucher program that would bolster private schools.

I presume that’s his way of saying he intends to call a fifth special session of the Legislature if it fails to produce a plan he wants, which would be to enable parents to use taxpayer funds to send their children to private schools.

The Legislature approved an amendment this past week that tossed the voucher notion aside. Democrats oppose the voucher program. Legislative Republicans who represent rural House districts don’t like it either and they joined their Democratic colleagues in scuttling the notion.

I happen to be a strong supporter of public education, so I will use this forum to implore the governor to give up the fight to gut our state’s public school system.

The rural Texas Republicans understand the place that public education has in the communities they represent. In many instances — even if you discount the “Friday Night Lights” aspect — public schools are the heart and soul of these communities.

Their elected lawmakers know it. It’s a shame the governor does not grasp this obvious fact of everyday life in small-town Texas.

Vouchers torpedoed by GOP lawmakers

How ’bout them rural Republican Texas legislators for standing up for their public school systems?

They have helped torpedo a plan to allow public school money to be funneled away to enable parents to enroll their children in private schools. According to the Texas Tribune: The House voted 84-63 in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. John Raney, R-College Station, which removed the provision of the bill allowing some parents to use tax dollars to send their children to private and religious schools. Twenty-one Republicans, most of whom represent rural districts, joined all Democrats in support.

Texas House votes to remove school vouchers from massive education bill | The Texas Tribune

Is this a major embarrassment to Gov. Greg Abbott, who keeps calling legislators back into special session to enact his top priority? You bet it is.

My hope is that Abbott will surrender on this approach that he deems so vital.

The GOP lawmakers understand something fundamental about the role that public school systems play in their district. Which is that the schools are the heart and soul of their districts. Why damage or destroy them by taking money away? They won’t go there. Nor should they!

Pete Laney of Hale Center is the most recent Democrat to serve as speaker of the House. Laney always said that he wanted to let “the will of the House” determine the flow of legislation. One of his successors, Republican Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont, is following that lead.

The will of the House has spoken on behalf of our public education system.

Support public education … not deplete it!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called the Legislature back to work for its third special session this year, aiming to enact a law that allows Texans to divert their property taxes into private school systems.

Gov. Abbott can count me out!

I happen to want the Legislature to put more money into public education, not deplete its revenue stream by allowing Texans to purchase vouchers to spend on their kids’ education.

I am willing to concede that public education in Texas isn’t doing all it can do to provide our children with the best education possible. I see the test results and I am acutely aware that Texas students’ perform below the national averages on almost all educational disciplines. Much of that is cultural, some of it is economic.

It’s also because Texas public educators likely do not believe they have the support of the men and women in power who have it within their power to give teachers and administrators all the support they deserve.

Dammit to hell, anyway! Texas public education deserves better than it is getting from the state and, in some instances, from local school boards whose members have been bitten by the “anti-woke” bug. Public educators have found themselves distracted by pressure to ban books or to teach students only a “certain way” that adheres to some right-wing ideology.

I hate the notion of public education being kicked around like the proverbial political football. That is what is happening with the governor and legislators getting set to fast-track Texans away from public education.

As a believer in spending public money on public education, my sincere hope is that we can do more within government to improve the education we provide our children.

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.

Farmersville ISD: ahead of curve

I am chuckling just a little as I watch the news reports of North Texas school districts considering and then approving new school calendars resulting in four-day school weeks.

Why, they just can’t believe how cool it is to give teachers an extra day off from the rigors of the classroom; it enables the districts to attract quality educators who are enamored of the four-day school week idea. Hey, not to mention the children loving the extra day off each week from school.

Well, I’ve been covering a local school district that implemented a four-day school week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmersville Independent School District liked it so much the school board recently approved a policy that stays with the new calendar. I see no signs of the school district turning back.

Just recently I spoke with an FISD administrator about all the hoopla surrounding other districts’ decision to follow Farmersville’s lead. She joked that it’s nice to be ahead of the curve. Indeed, the four-day week has worked well for Farmersville, as it has been able to do the very things that other districts aim to do for themselves.

I am equally impressed that a school district with which I have become familiar can hold itself up as a model for progressive education.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Teachers want to bail

Finding and keeping high-quality educators is a difficult enough job even when conditions are ideal. Throw in a killer pandemic and then politics on top of that, then the public school system faces a seriously daunting task.

The Texas Tribune reports a disturbing trend: Results from a new online survey of K-12 teachers in Texas, released on Thursday, shows most “seriously considered” leaving the profession this year, a 19% increase from two years ago.

Not good, man. Not good at all.

Earlier this year we saw Dallas-Fort Worth area school districts pummeled by resignations of superintendents, some of whom were leaving districts that as recently a year ago were honored for superlative work in educating children.

What drove them away? In too many cases, it was the constant hectoring from parents over mask mandates and other restrictions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tribune reports:

I tried my hand at substitute teaching in 2012 and learned right away I am not wired to work with other people’s children. My brief exposure to classroom work filled me with admiration for those who see it as a calling.

Therefore, I am unsettled to learn that politics is getting in the way of those who are dedicated to guiding young minds and to teaching them skills they will need to succeed.

New survey indicates more Texas teachers want to quit | The Texas Tribune

It shouldn’t need to be said, but Texas can ill-afford to let good teachers go because of political pressure. Our public school system, for which we all pay, suffers as a result.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Pols step up correctly!

My previous blog spoke well of the Texas State Board of Education’s decision to keep teaching elementary public school students about “slavery” and to forgo the use of a term called “involuntary relocation” in our curriculum.

I want to highlight one aspect of that decision. It came unanimously. Yes, 15 members of the SBOE voted as one. Why is that a big deal? Because the SBOE comprises politicians who are elected to the office. They run as Republicans and Democrats. They have constituencies to which they must appeal. They represent vastly different districts drawn across our vast state.

They come from different ideological backgrounds, bias and political leanings.

Yet on this matter, they spoke with one voice.

Make no mistake, the SBOE made the correct statement. The term “slavery” should remain in our public school curriculum to remind our children of the darkest chapter in our nation’s history.

That the SBOE locked arms on this matter is cause for high praise.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

SBOE pushes back on language change

Well, I’ll be deep fried and rolled in oats. The Texas State Board of Education, a committee of 15 politicians elected to a panel that determines public school curriculum, has shown some needed guts.

The SBOE appears to have squashed an idea to change the way schools teach second graders about slavery. A group of educators had pitched an idea to call the enslavement of human beings as “involuntary relocation.”

The SBOE said “no” to that idea. Texas’s public schools will continue to teach our children about “slavery,” and will keep the language as it has been presented.

Yahoo News reported: While involuntary relocation isn’t an entirely unknown term in social studies, it often “has relationships to refugees and forced displacement due to violence or ethnic cleansing,” said Neil Shanks, clinical assistant professor of middle and secondary education at Baylor University.

In this case, Shanks added, the term appeared to be “intended to water down the issue of slavery.”

Texas board of education strikes down proposal to call slavery ‘involuntary relocation’ (yahoo.com)

Let’s understand that slavery is the darkest chapter in our nation’s otherwise glorious story. We shouldn’t dilute its impact by introducing the kind of terminology that means next to nothing. “Involuntary relocation?” What the hell is that?

The State Board of Education, to its great credit, voted unanimously to stay the course on teaching our children about the evils of slavery.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Teachers are heroes

I want to say a good word or three about those who practice a profession I took a swing at not long after my journalism career came to an end.

That would be teachers. They are heroes in my book. I would bet they are heroes in your book, too. The good teachers, those who are committed to educating our young people deserve all the money we taxpayers can afford to pay them.

My full-time newspaper career ended unceremoniously in August 2012. To earn a little income after I resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News, I decided to try substitute teaching with the Amarillo Independent School District.

I learned something profound about myself during my brief stint as a “sub.” It was that I am not wired to teach young boys and girls. It takes a special breed of human being to commit themselves to the well-being of someone else’s children.

Before long, I threw in the towel and decided that substitute teaching wasn’t in the cards for me. I have gone on to do other things in my retired — or semi-retired — life.

However, my brief exposure to public education classroom work revealed to me the goodness that is required of good teachers and the sacrifices they make each day to prepare our young people for the life that awaits after their school days have passed.

We hear often about teachers who reach out to help struggling children. How they comfort them, encourage them, promote them. They scold the children in their charge when they mess up but do so with love in their voice.

These are special folks who embody the best in the rest of us.

I just feel compelled with this brief post to tell them all how much I appreciate what they do for us and for our children.

And, if you’ll pardon what has become a bit of a cliche, to thank them for their service.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

 

Oh, Ted … please shut up!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Forgive this brief bit of “what aboutism.” I just cannot let this statement go without a response.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said this today regarding President Biden’s nomination of Xavier Becerra to become the next secretary of health and human services:

The fact that President Biden was willing to nominate Xavier Becerra — someone with zero experience in anything related to health care — to the Department of Health and Human Services during this pandemic, illustrates Biden prioritizes partisan politics above all else.

Oh, my. Where do I begin?

I’ll start with this: Cruz had no difficulty supporting the appointment of two members of the Donald Trump Cabinet with no experience at all overseeing the agencies they were selected to run.

Exhibit A is Dr. Ben Carson, the housing secretary and then we have Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education.

Dr. Carson was a renowned brain surgeon. Did he have a clue about public housing? Had he ever led an agency the size of HUD? No and no. Indeed, he was hard-pressed during his confirmation hearing to answer simple questions related to public housing policy. He got confirmed.

DeVos never attended public schools. Her children never attended them, either. She favors giving taxpayer funds to finance vouchers for children to attend private schools. She is anti-public education. DeVos was, and is, ignorant on basics about education policy. She, too, was confirmed … although it took a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence for her to take office.

Now we hear from the Cruz Missile saying that Becerra has no experience in health policy. Earth to Ted: Becerra served in the House of Representatives and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act that Cruz has opposed since joining the Senate in 2013. Thus, Becerra had plenty to do with health care.

This kind of flippin’ nonsense from a loudmouth senator who doesn’t possess an ounce of introspection just sends me into orbit.

What’s more, to hear this kind of bullsh** coming from someone who sought to undermine a free and fair election and who ought to bear some responsibility for the hideous attack on our democratic system on Jan. 6 is reprehensible on its face.

My advice to Ted Cruz? Shut the hell up.