America's Education, Part 2, The Bush Record

We’ve taken an in-depth look at the state of our nation’s educational system and how it fared during Gore’s watch as Vice-president. Frankly, we weren’t impressed.

Let’s turn our attention to the great state of Texas and learn how the children there managed during the five years of the Bush administration.

We’ll begin with a few important figures.

Teacher salaries at beginning of term - 36th in the nation. ( 1 )

Teacher salaries at beginning of 2nd term - 38th in nation. ( 1 )

Average salaries change in constant 1998-99 dollars - -1.1%. ( 1)

Teacher salaries plus benefits - 50th in nation. ( 1 )

High school completion rate - 48th in nation. ( 2 )

Percent of all students in Texas public schools who never receive a high school diploma - 42%

Percentage increase in drop-out rate since 1986 - 9%

SAT scores - 1996 combined math & verbal - 44th. ( 2 )

SAT scores - 1997 combined math & verbal - 45th. ( 2 )

SAT scores - 1998 combined math & verbal - 44th. ( 2 )

Spending for public libraries & branches - 46th. ( 3 )

Best place to raise children - 48th. ( 4 )

How about a comment from Louis Malfaro of the Texas Federation of Teachers, “Texas had a real chance to bring teacher’s salaries to the national average but George Bush was the spoiler. He was more interested in looking good for the presidential race and needed the money so he could boast about a tax cut.” This tax cut, like the one Tumbleweed is offering, was not wanted by the citizens of Texas. In fact, by a 10 - 1 margin in various opinion polls conducted at the time, voters wanted the money spend on schools and teachers. ( 5 )

What little positive news that comes out of the state originated during Ann Richard’s tenure when she instituted an accountability system for schools that has resulted in a higher level of morale at the school level.

Okay, we’ve seen that Tumbleweed has been a complete failure as the Governor of Texas, even though he wants to be known as the “Education Candidate”, which is like calling his daddy the “No New Taxes” candidate.

Let’s look at what Tumbleweed is offering the nation in the area of education. His “reforms” comes in four parts, each in some way reliant on the others.

First, he wants all schools to perform mandatory multiple choice tests on all children at every grade level. Okay, you say, testing is good but what are we testing? Are we testing the child’s overall knowledge, their ability to learn the subjects that are on the test (which will become apparent after the first year, allowing districts to fashion their syllabus to conform to the tests) or are they just testing the ability of the children to read English and take tests? And what happens if they fail or don’t perform to the standards desired by the “reforms”?

Well, that’s the second phase of Tumbleweed’s system. If a school can’t perform to the desired standards because of a lack of funding for books and libraries and after school help or tutors or computer labs or art and music departments or whatever, he’ll cut their Title 1 funding even more. Boy, not that makes sense in a very Republican way, doesn’t it? If you can’t pass the test because the system has denied you the tools you need to learn, then we’ll make you learn next year by taking even more of those tools away from you. Kind of like telling a man dying of starvation that unless he puts on a few pounds, we’ll take even more food away from him.

Naturally, since Bush hasn’t had an original idea since he figured out a way to get his daddy to get him into the Texas Air National Guard and away from all that fightin’ and feudin’ in Vietnam, his third phase of his “reforms” is to put those children who aren’t performing acceptably into “Charter Schools”.

What is the big difference between public schools and charter schools? Actually, there are three main differences. First, the charter schools will be run by Corporate America, which means that they will expect a profit for all their trouble. That means no nasty old teacher’s unions to try to get a living wage or benefits for the teachers at the charter schools. It also means, since charter schools do not have to answer to any federal or state authorities, that the teachers really don’t have to be all that better trained than the ones stuck back in the public school system that are learning to work with even less funding now that the charter schools are transferring those funds into the pockets of Corporate America. Since the charter schools have no responsibility to any overseeing government agency, they can teach nothing but what is needed to pass those mandatory tests, leaving their students the dumber for it but their bottom line the fatter for it. Also, a little understood and even less relevant difference is that schools in the public sector will remain named the George Washington Middle School or whatever while charter schools can call themselves the Life Enhancement Center or the Center for Success or whatever other name the focus groups find desirable in order to make moldy meat appear to be filet mignon.

Last, but certainly not least, Tumbleweed wants to transfer your tax dollars from your public school districts into the pockets of the religious organizations that he kneels before in awe. That’s right, gentle readers, the wonder of doublespeak, vouchers, is a huge part of his “reform” plans. Should the public school system “fail” a child, then $1500 will be removed from their budget to be used by the parents for entry into charter schools (which will, of course, be able to some how educate your child on that small fee) or as part payment of the tuition to a religious school or to buy some kind of tutoring help or software or whatever to supplement the “failing” school system. ( 6 )

So, what Tumbleweed is offering is fairly simple (it is his plan, remember, and it has to be simple for him to get any sort of grasp on the fundamentals). He wants to test all of our kids and, if some districts fall below his arbitrary standards, to cut the funding for that school will , naturally, result in even lower scores the next year and so on and so forth. Eventually, every child in America will be attending a corporately owned and operated “charter” school or will be indoctrinated on a daily basis in the myth, magic, and miracles of some religious sect or the other. Now THAT, gentle readers, is a wet dream come true for every small minded and mean spirited and anti-union conservative Republican in America.

A wonderful side effect of all of this state sponsored training of test taking idiots will be, of course, the fact that some children will eventually just give up, believing that their lack of learning is their fault and not the fault of the numskulls who devised the system. Since they will enter the world sans any kind of real education, they will have little choice but to turn to crime. This will create an even larger and more expensive need for more prisons and more courts and more cops and more American unable to change the system into something that works because we won’t allow them to participate in the process of electing their government.

Oh, yeah! What happens if some white collar criminal decides to found a charter school, and then absconds with the money, leaving the children and parents with nowhere to turn and no money to enroll in another charter school? Well, it’s already happening in the great state of Texas. Schools never open that have already taken the vouchers of hundreds of pupils or close in the middle of the year because they run out of money. What is the penalty for the criminals who operated this state level scam? Nothing whatsoever! Tumbleweed loves to “reform” everything and everybody but refuses to include and penalties for his owners should they decide to steal the money and run. Actually, there even isn’t any way to stop a company that has already stolen these student funds from opening another charter school the next year and doing it again.

Folks, Tumbleweed keeps saying that the American voters should look at his educational record in Texas to see what he’s capable of offering the nation as a whole. This is the same man who, when asked about the endorsement of Al Gore by the National Education Association, stated that, “In the state of Texas, I have terrific support amongst the teachers, but oftentimes their spokespeople weren’t for me. That’s politics.” Gentle readers, since his inauguration as governor, not one single poll has ever found anything but the smallest percentage of support for Tumbleweed by the state’s teachers.

In fact, he once tried to remind the state’s teachers of a raise that he said that he had given them. The problem was, the raise was just a fantasy of his and had never happened. He tried to atone for that wee bit of imbecility by promising to give “one billion additional dollars to local school districts to raise teacher’s salaries or hire more teachers to reduce class size.” What the bill he eventually sent to the legislature actually offered was only a small raise for beginning teachers.

The teachers did, however, receive a $1.7 billion wage package for across the board teacher raises but it was passed by such a large margin by the House Democrats that Tumbleweed couldn’t veto it and have it stand. Instead, he just started claiming that it was his idea all along. ( 6 )

I could go on and on about the complete failure of Tumbleweed to claim any positive record on the subject of the state of education in Texas. What it would all show, though, is that this nation is in for a long, long decline into the same level of insanity and simple-mindedness that passes for Tumbleweed’s personal education. The nation simply cannot afford to elect this bozo, and that is about as unbiased as I can be on this particular topic.

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