A Fine Whine
Governor Perry of Texas decreed that not less than 65% of education dollars would be used for education. Subsequently, Representative Van Arsdale of Houston had the impertinence to ask specifics of who would define education and how participants were selected. A fine whine erupted from Educrats across Texas.
What caused Representative Van Arsdale’s concern?
On August 24, 2005 Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Neeley issued a press release naming her “65% Rule Task Force.” Within the same press release the commissioner provided names and titles of the 15 members. Her press release named no parents, no children’s advocates, and no school choice professionals. The list contained only people responsible for our current dilemma.
How did we learn of Representative Van Arsdale’s letter?
While the letter was addressed to Commissioner Neeley with a copy to Governor Perry, Superintendent Dr. Timothy Jones obtained it. Dr. Jones took it upon himself to respond in a Texas teacher publication. To his credit, he published Representative Van Arsdale’s original correspondence. We will extend Dr. Jones the same courtesy.
In defense of Texas families and in support of the extraordinary work of Governor Perry and Representative Van Arsdale, I take it upon myself to respond to Dr. Jones.
To review the original documents: Click Here
Dr. Jones characterizes the 79th Session of the Texas Legislature as a “Failed Session.” As a parent that testified before the House Education Committee, I can assure you it was anything but that. Click Here
This legislature did yeoman work in staving off the onslaught of superintendents, their unions, teachers, their unions, food service workers, their unions, the custodial staff, their unions and the tens of other groups clamoring for everything under the sun except educating Texas children.
Representative Van Arsdale is one of the good guys. He’s dedicated to educating children, not using them as a union jobs program.
Dr. Jones refers to our legislators as “Part Time Politicians” wanting to fill their own pockets.
He’s right about them being part time, however, his view of the Texas Legislature and the view held by Texas families differ. Men like Representative Van Arsdale fight valiantly against a rapacious lobbying machine that demands more than $34 billion dollars a year from Texas families. In return, it delivers high school graduates requiring remediation at a 50% rate at Texas state colleges. For an expanded discussion: Click Here.
Commissioner Neeley has stacked her committee with the same people that delivered us to our current deplorable state.
We don’t need to reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic for the umpteenth time. We need true reform. We need men like Representative Van Arsdale to demand full accountability in a loud and clear voice. The congressman is serving Texas families well.
Dr. Jones said this of Representative Van Arsdale:
“Your hatred for schools administrators is obvious, unfounded, and quite frankly unfair.”
I invite readers of this column to examine the letters from both men. I perceive no hatred in the congressman’s letter, just a healthy skepticism towards a system that has failed Texas families for decades.
To review both letters: Click Here.
How badly have our schools failed Texas families? When you look at the deplorable condition of public education, you must lead with Texas’ poster child for public school failure, i.e., Wilmer-Hutchins ISD.
Wilmer-Hutchins inflicted 40 years of abuse on South Dallas’ poorest families. The duration and magnitude of this failure should give every Texas parent pause. For an expanded discussion, Click Here.
Over the decades, many Wilmer-Hutchins families fought bravely for their children. Unfortunately, when their escape plans were discovered, Texas Educrats drug them back into the abyss.
An October 3, 1996 Dallas Observer article entitled Last in the Class, Why nobody will erase the board at Wilmer-Hutchins, the worst-run school district in Texas, is illustrative.
Relevant passages are:
“Eleventh-grade English at Wilmer-Hutchins High wasn’t what Tiffany Pullum had hoped it would be. Instead of reading novels or writing compositions, her class dozed in front of Bad Boys, Forrest Gump, and just about any other Hollywood video the kids thought to bring in and unspool.
The teacher told us were were gonna write about the movies, give a plot and theme and all that, but we didn’t write about anything,” says Pullum, an effusive 16-year-old who skipped a grade and wants to attend the U. S. Air Force Academy next fall.
Then as the first week of Pullum’s senior year unfolded in August, a counselor mistakenly scheduled her into three hours a day of appropriately named “work release” rather than the classes she needs to graduate. Drinking in the disappointment of yet another Wilmer-Hutchins scewup, Pullum found herself wishing she could do what she did last year – sneak into the high school in nearby Lancaster.
She and her older sister had slipped over the city line and went to classes there until an attendance officer got wise to the bogus home address her mother had used to get them in. Then, unhappily, it was back to “the Hutch,” the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District, a notoriously mismanaged district of 3,200 students in southern Dallas County, a small corner of American public education gone horribly wrong.
By the districts own estimates, about 600 students wake up in homes in the Wilmer-Hutchins attendance area and steal into schools in other disctricts, particularly the Dallas Independent School District, which is just north across Simpson-Stuart Road. Because most of their parents don’t make private-school wages, these students escape into other public schools using the addresses of relatives and friends.
Things have been so bad for so long in Wilmer-Hutchins that Pullum is a second-generation refugee under this black-market method of school choice. “
The Pullum’s were only one of thousands of Texas families in a single district, desperate to obtain an education for their children. They were one of 600 families bold enough to defy Austin. The rest didn’t even try. To the delight of Texas Educrats, they went quietly into the night.
Has it got any better since 1996? No.
In spite of four decades of failure, abuse and theft, the TEA was desperate to keep this job program for Educrats running. The interim superintendent appointed by Commissioner Neeley exhorted his troops. Their task was to convince the Wilmer-Hutchins community to overlook illegal taxes assessed for years and further fund this failed school district.
The community said no. For an expanded discussion, Click Here.
When the money ran out, the buzzards began to circle. According to a July 21, 2005 Dallas Morning News article Texas “Educators” were videotaped stealing school property. According to a July 22, 2005 Dallas Morning News article, the fired faculty was initially offered an amnesty period to return the stolen merchandise thereby avoiding prosecution. Then one of the “Educators” realized a bunch of teachers getting off scott free after stealing property from an impoverished school would send a bad message to the children. Instead of amnesty, the Texas Rangers were called in to sort out the mess and prosecute if appropriate.
It gets worse.
The coup de grace was delivered to Texas families in Commissioner Neeley’s September 2, 2005 press release regarding the forced dissolution of Wilmer-Hutchins Schools District.
The relevant passage says:
“WHISD Superintendent Eugene Young and the Board of Managers I appointed in May have gone above and beyond the call of duty to try to save this district. I will always be indebted to them for their hard work and special effort.”
Over the past 40 years, thousands of Texas children have attempted to flee this wretched district. The commissioner publicly laments it’s passing.
If Ken Lay, of Enron fame, published a press release thanking all his thieving troops for their Herculean work in trying to save that wretched company, it would be outrageous. The commissioner’s comments are equally outrageous.
Shirley Neeley is the current commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. This is how she and her people think. This commissioner has named a committee comprised exclusively of her acolytes to determine what will be defined as classroom spending.
That is not acceptable.
Dr. Neeley’s judgment, or lack thereof, is why we need Congressman Van Arsdale to asked pointed questions of the commissioner and not go away until they’re answered to his satisfaction. As an elected representative of the people of Texas, it is actually we the people, not the congressman, who are soliciting answers.
Wilmer-Hutchins is shut down. Was that the only problem with Commissioner Neeley’s judgment? No, it was not.
In August, Dr. Neeley attempted to drive Texas children from a superior to an inferior public school. Educrats fearing for their jobs characterized the massive exodus as “White Flight.” Hardly. The bulk of the fleeing families were Black or Hispanic. Click Here. There’s more. In the preceding months the commissioner has paid huge fines to assure her cronies would not face the unemployment line. Click Here.
It’s time for these people to stop gaming our children. Since they pay no attention to Texas families, we thank God we have men like Representative Van Arsdale to intercede on our behalf.
None of this will be an issue when Texas parents achieve the “Power of the Purse.” When every Texas child is provided fully funded, fully transferable educational vouchers permitting their family to select the public, private or parochial school that best serves their needs, they’ll simply walk away from bad schools.
Despite the assistance Texas families are willing to provide the commissioner in monitoring and disciplining schools, we fear she will battle parents until the bitter end.
One hundred percent of the “65% Rule Task Force” appointed by Commissioner Neeley are school superintendents. The Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) is the superintendent’s union. What does their organization have to say about the primacy of the family?
I quote from the TASA 2005 Legislative Agenda:
Funding for Private Schools/Vouchers:
TASA opposes the use of public funds to provide financial resources to private elementary and secondary schools through funding of programs or materials, tax credits, virtual charters, and/or vouchers, and considers such funding an improper use of tax revenue and public monies.
According to the superintendent’s union, educating Texas children in accordance with the wishes of their family is an improper use of public money.
Texan’s disagree vehemently.
There’s room for reconciliation. If Dr. Neeley, Dr. Jones and their colleagues will accept families and their elected representatives as allies, rather than viewing them as adversaries, we can build a bridge over these troubled waters.
In addition to the original letter from Dr. Jones and Representative Van Arsdale, I also have a copy of the commissioner’s reply of September 1, 2005. Texas families thank the commissioner for her response without rancor.
The following is Congressman Van Arsdale’s second question and the commissioner’s reply.
Representative Van Arsdale:
Why were teachers, non-educator parents, principals and policy experts excluded?
Ad-hoc members of the task force will include representatives from teacher’s groups, Texas PTA, Texas Business Education Coalition, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. There will also be a second task force announced soon that will include taxpayers and other policy organizations. As always, I stand ready to accept feedback and insight from anyone who is willing to provide such information.
I will help. If the commissioner asks, I will be pleased to serve on one of the task forces. For my contact information: Click Here.
I sincerely believe we all want a world-class education for every Texas child. To achieve this goal, we’ve got to fully engage Texas families. That means fully funded school choice.
Joseph Sobran once said:
“Freedom is becoming little more than the right to ask permission.”
It must not happen here. Not in Texas. Not with our children.
Parents must have the power to remove their children from ineffective, dangerous or abusive situations without rewarding the offending institution by leaving dollars behind. When Texas has choice, no Texas child will be forced to endure the degradation, the incompetence, or the perfidy of a Wilmer-Hutchins. Self-serving Educrats will drop like flies leaving only competent Educators to instruct our children.
Isn’t that what we all want?
Contact the Governor, your state senator, state representative and your State Board of Education Representative today. Urge them to support embattled Texas children. Urge them to support 100% Fully Funded School Choice in Texas.
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