What is right with Public Education?
Tough economic times and a great deal of media coverage about proposed cuts in state budgets have given many people the opportunity to voice their opinion concerning Public Education. Many of us that have spent our adult lives working in public schools know the benefits and success stories associated with our chosen profession. Starting with Global Statistics, we are bombarded with media coverage of failing schools that do not prepare students for international competition. The fact is, the US Education System ranks 20th in the world, according to the United Nations Education Index, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_Index), found on Wikipedia. This worldwide study compares the education provided by over 170 nations as related to literacy and educational opportunities K through Post-Secondary. If you believe twentieth is not impressive, consider the following information:
• The combined population of the nineteen countries ranked higher that the US are not equal to the population of the USA.
• Only seven of the countries ranked higher that the US have a population greater than New York City.
• Only five of those countries have a population greater than the State of Texas.
• None of the countries ranked above the US are regularly mentioned as economic rivals the US.
• Japan ranks #34, China ranks #97 and India ranks #145.
Public Schools in Texas are continuously improving in test scores overall and in the sub-populations determined by ethnicity and/or socio-economic characteristics. One of the most often heard complaints is that the increase in expenditures has not resulted in an increase in results. Although there has been an increase in total dollars spent on Texas Education, there has not been a significant increased in the cost per student. Texas adds 85,000 new students to the rolls every year. That is the equivalent of an additional Austin ISD each year. That figure takes into consideration those that graduate and leave the system. Increased costs are directly related to increased reporting and monitoring of Federal/State Mandated Special Programs. Personnel have to be in place to complete and submit as many as 500 reports/audits required by Federal/State law. This is no small task. We serve more than 5 million students and the Texas Public School System is the sixth largest employer in The World.
Finally, at the local level, White Oak ISD employs 170 dedicated individuals that provide an outstanding educational environment for 1430 students. Our budget for 2010/2011 is 9.8 million dollars dispensed over 180 days of instruction. If you use 7.5 hours as the length of a day at school (which seldom ever happens), the cost of educating a child in White Oak ISD is $5.08 per hour, per child! That includes instruction, food service, transportation and all extra curricular activities. The opportunity to succeed exists in White Oak and it comes at a price of $5.08 per student, per hour. When Legislators talk about decreasing funds for Public Schools, they are talking about cuts that will harm the future of our students and harm the future of the State of Texas.
Those that are in opposition to Public Schools are being heard in Austin. I would encourage those of you that support the efforts of your local school district to be heard as well. There is a difference in saving funds and cutting funds. When you can do the same amount of work, create the same outcome and/or provide the same level of service with less money, you are saving money. When the decrease in funding negatively affects the outcome of your stated purpose, educating children, you are cutting funds. Cuts are painful and difficult to overcome. Contact your Representative in the House and your Senator. Let them know you support your school district and that funding to Public Education should be cut Last and Least!