Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Public Education - A Fundamental Texas Value

by Michael Messer, President, Collin County Young Democrats

“Unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.” These words are forever a part of the unique history of our state. In March of 1836, as Santa Anna's army was attacking the Alamo, five men gathered to write the Texas Declaration of Independence. Among their grievances, they included that Mexico had failed to create a system of public education, “although possessed of almost boundless resources.”

Forty years later, legislators created one of the most hotly debated parts of our state's constitution. Article 7 of the Texas Constitution of 1876 made it the responsibility “of the state legislature ├Čto establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

This year we face an election which will largely determine the fate of the public education system in Texas, and the contrast between the candidates' positions could not be more severe. On the Republican ticket, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have both expressed a desire to expand our use of expensive standardized tests while further cutting education funding.

Representing the Democratic Party, and all Texans, Senators Davis and Van de Putte have called for a massive reduction in our reliance on the faulty STAAR exams. They also campaign for the proper funding of our school system. The results of the $5.4 billion dollar public education funding cut in 2011 are distinct. Thousands of teachers lost their jobs. Class sizes across our state skyrocketed, even in the relatively affluent districts of Collin County. Support staff and important school programs, such as special needs and advanced placement, were eliminated. Districts were forced to increase property taxes in an effort to mitigate the effects, further increasing the inequities of a system significantly reliant upon a regressive tax structure.

Parents, teachers, and taxpayers who desire a more prosperous future have a very clear decision. We can prepare today's youth for the challenges of tomorrow, or we can watch as the Republican Party increases the need for the very welfare systems they publicly proclaim to loathe. If you believe
as we do in the power of public education, please take a stand with us in this year's election. Your vote is your voice. Vote Democratic.

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