FROM THE BLEACHERS: Herald-Banner Column

Jack Welch has served as a high school and college football coach for 39 years. He holds a Doctorate in Education. He can be reached at jackwelch1975@gmail.com.


Do you think testing public school children is needed? Do you understand there is a monopoly for the testing company and the test makers also write curriculum? Could the money spent on a controversial testing program be better utilized in the local districts?

There is a movement in America to privatize education. One of the ways to accomplish this is to have mandated testing. I believe it is time to stop the anti-public-school movement in Texas.

From 2010 to 2011, Texas grew by over 520,000 in population. More than 80,000 new students move into Texas annually. That is typical of our state’s growth. This is equivalent to adding a district the size of Austin ISD’s student population every year.

Can you imagine this many students added annually without new buildings, busses, books or new teachers? This rate of growth is projected to continue, if not increase.

In 2011, Texas lawmakers slashed state funding to public education by $4 billion and another $1.4 billion in federal grant programs. This reduced per pupil spending by more than $500 (Texas Education Agency, 2012). Although, over the last six years, money has been added to public school education, it is not back to the per pupil figures prior to the 2012 cut.

Inadequate funding reduces teaching positions. It also forces districts to enlarge class sizes. The number of elementary schools applying for permission to exceed a state-mandated cap of 22 students per classroom are continually increasing.

 The number of young children receiving help through Early Childhood Intervention programs across Texas have dropped over 17 percent in recent years because of the lack of funding.

We are spending more than $89 million on testing. This amount has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. To my knowledge every penny goes to a company called Pearson, which develops test questions, prints, distributes test booklets, and scores the exams before sending them back to 8,000 school campuses.

 Texas’ five-year contract with Pearson totaled just over $468 million in 2012. According to the Texas Education Agency, state taxpayers have paid Pearson nearly $1.2 billion for developing standardized tests and related materials dating back to the year 2000.  

 This lack of funding and mandated testing is causing a tremendous burden on property poor school districts. I think we all agree all children, regardless where they reside, should receive an opportunity for an excellent and equal educational opportunity. What does it mean to have equity for all students?  

 Equity in school finance is the equal treatment of equals (Cortez, 2009; Clark, 2010). Equity ensures that schools have equitable amounts of dollars to educate students (Bingham, Jones, & Jackson, 2004). The education of students should account for the different needs of students (Cortez, 2009).

Colbert (2010) said the number one reason equity is important is because the State Constitution recognized that educating the general population was a function of the state.

Inequity in public school funding in Texas is the state’s failure to neutralize the differences in taxable property wealth (Lesley, 2010; Baker, Taylor, & Vedlitz, 2005). State equalization aid provided school districts in the 1970’s with state aid but it was not adequate, and the state failed to create funding that accounted for the property wealth differences (Imazeki & Reschovsky, 2003).

With the adoption of Senate Bill 7 in 1993, the state created a system that was the most equitable in history. Local enrichment is extra money raised by the district beyond the minimum funding provided by the state.  

There is inequity in our public schools and legislators are mandating questionable testing of students. This testing system is controversial. It is putting a burden on an already woefully inadequate budget and it is common sense to allow the local districts to operate their school district with proper funding.

My vote is to stop the mandated testing and turn funding over to local districts. Let’s focus on properly funding our educational system.

Thought for the week: “Philosophy is common sense with big words.”

James Madison

Dr. Jack Welch is a college football coach and has been in public school and collegiate education for 39 years. He can be reached at jackwelch1975@gmail.com.

 

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