What We Should Be Talking About When We Talk About Public Ed

By Chandra Villanueva
Texas is responsible for educating 5 million kids, and 60 percent of those kids are poor. We have an obligation to ensure that every child succeeds in school today so they can be ready for college and careers.
As we approach this legislative session, the conversation around Texas public education has been dominated by talk of vouchers, charters, and testing. These issues are just distractions from what our lawmakers, and we, should really be focusing on.
What we should be talking about is creating a system where all children can succeed, regardless of where they live or their family’s income.
Children from low-income families face barriers to learning that more affluent children do not. Children in low-income households don’t always have enough food to keep them fueled and alert during the day; they don’t always have someone who can review their homework with them; they may have to go to school when they’re sick because their parents can’t take time off of work. These barriers are not the fault of our teacher and schools, but speak to the larger issue of poverty in Texas.
Last session, the Legislature chose to cut public education by $5.4 billion, and $1.4 billion of that came from education grant programs. Funding for programs such as Pre-K, High School Completion/Success, and School-Based Prevention Services that promote success among economically disadvantaged students were completely eliminated. These unprecedented cuts were made because our Legislature would rather disinvest in public education than tap the self-replenishing Rainy Day Fund or fix our broken revenue system. Now that we have more revenue this upcoming budget cycle than originally anticipated, one might ask should these cuts have been made in the first place.
Over the next few months we should be asking ourselves how best to educate all 5 million of our children and how to ensure that every child enters kindergarten ready and graduates not only with a high school diploma but also is college and career ready. We should be figuring out a way to equitably distribute our resources so that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.
And perhaps most importantly, we should be working to alleviate poverty and invest in things like health care, education, and other child well-being services so our 60 percent of poor students, and their families, get by and get ahead.

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