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Improving Public Education – A Path Forward

The time of finger pointing and sloganeering has come to an end. Texas has to improve its public schools, both for the sake of the children enrolled today and for the businesses, families, and communities who depend on a well-trained workforce and responsible citizens.

Local Control

The people in the best positions to make decisions affecting how our schools operate are our locally-elected school boards. Each district, and each board, is unique. "One size fits all" in terms of directions from Austin simply won’t work.

Funding the Future

Adequate funding is clearly part of the picture but we can’t stop there. We need to determine which performance measures have the greatest value and focus on those few. Cutting cumbersome and unnecessary regulations, rules, and red tape will free up administrative funds which can then be directed to the classroom where learning actually takes place. Then, spending that money wisely, focusing on the activities that foster greater academic achievement, will further improve our schools.

In the last session, the Legislature reduced overall school funding, but by less than half the amount that all other programs were cut, and the State avoided a multi-billion dollar tax increase. My opponent and I differ in that I did not and do not support a one-time, feel good spending spree to empty our savings account, the “Rainy Day Fund.” That kind of spending would have resulted in billions more needed in the next budget, an even larger tax increase, and left us with no reserve funds. Short term gain for long term pain is not smart public policy.

Overhauling the method of financing public education in Texas and adjusting how we distribute funds will take place only after the Texas Supreme Court ruling on the current five lawsuits. Since this will not happen before our next legislative session, it is critical that we provide regulatory (and budget) relief in this upcoming session. We also need to consider ways to allow school districts to increase local revenue that won’t be exported to other districts or reduce their state support as happens in the Robin Hood system.

Improving Performance

Our current dropout rate of 30% or more is unacceptable and will keep the Texas economy from growing, making it harder to attract and retain employers. Test scores have importance, but making sure students graduate must be our top priority. What’s more, not all jobs require a 4-year degree, so encouraging students to pursue technical schools and community colleges has to be an expanded part of our strategy.

We need to refocus the work of the Texas Education Agency and have it seek out the most successful and innovative programs and teachers. It should then, as businesses do, help peer districts replicate their work and their success. There are success stories in public, private, and charter schools and across all geographic and demographic areas. It is time to learn from their examples and abandon polices better suited to the 19th century.

My Commitment

As your State Representative, I will continue to use my hands on experience as an educator, knowledge of the business world, some hard–earned legislative lessons, and a conservative point of view to identify and implement solutions that work now and in the future. This work will require vision and teamwork as we bring together educators, business people, families, business, and taxpayers. The solutions we develop need to work for all of us. And my pledge is to do just that.

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