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Two more things you can do for public schools

In addition to the three things I mentioned on Sunday and the live HISD TV show tonight at 6:30 about the budget, here are two more things to put on your agenda for the public schools. First, via the HISD Parent Visionaries Facebook group:

Monday, March 14th, 7 am – 7 pm: Legislative Day at the Texas Capitol in Austin, organized by Houston Federation of Teachers. HFT has invited parents to join them in meeting with as many state legislators as possible to discuss the state funding situation. During HISD’s recent Legislative Training, Bill King (an HISD lobbyist) shared with Houston parents and community members the high impact and value that comes from parents and community members meeting with our legislators face to face. The goal of the trip on the 14th is to fill the halls of our Capitol with Houstonians and advocate our concerns over funding issues — before our representatives become overscheduled during the pending session. The parent agenda will focus exclusively on the budget situation. We are collaborating on these messages with input from our HISD elected trustees and insight from HISD sponsored meetings. You will receive talking points on the bus ride to Austin.

There is no cost to participate in this lobbying trip to Austin other than your time. Transportation and lunch will be provided by the HFT and no experience is required. If you prefer to drive yourself or carpool you are welcome to do that. If you have never met with an elected official or have never been to the Capitol, no problem. (Please, note that childcare will not be provided and students are not permitted to ride the bus due to liability issues.)

If you are just learning about this, have not taken any action regarding the state budget crisis or funding issues at HISD, or are fired up about what is happening, then this is the trip for you.

RSVP by Tuesday, March 1st by emailing Sue Deigaard ([email protected]) and include your name, home address, and phone number. This will enable the logistics team to match up parent teams with teachers and legislators. All HISD parents/taxpayers are welcome. Feel free to forward this email invitation to any interested party.

I’ve omitted the trip agenda and some other information from the lengthy message, so contact Sue Deigaard at the address above if you are interested. There’s no substitute for showing up in person on these Lobby Days to tell your Rep and your Senator what you would like him or her to do.

And for those of you for whom travel is not a good option, here’s a local event to attend:

TEXANS DAY OF OUTRAGE!

March 15, 2011
HOUSTON CITY HALL

4:30pm

Details are to follow, so just mark it on your calendar for now. When all is said and done, there will be no excuse to have not done something to help in this fight.

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4 Comments

  1. Wrote this the other night… please feel free to share..

    “For the Love of My Son”

    Texas is facing unprecedented cuts in funding for Public Education.

    At a time when nearly a third of Texas children are not graduating from high school (a modest estimate) and schools are already operating on bare bones budgets, the members of the senate and the house, whom we sent to Austin to advocate for us, are proceeding with reckless abandon in an attempt to thoroughly undermine the public education system that the majority of Texas citizens rely upon to prepare their children to compete in the global economy. If these legislators do not reconsider and proceed with the current proposed budget cuts, the consequences of their actions will be far reaching and will have a devastating long-term impact on the vitality of our great state.

    Ask any great leader how she or he got to where they are and they will inevitably credit a teacher who helped them along the way or encouraged them to achieve their full potential. Education is the great equalizer. It opens doors that otherwise might have been closed. Schools are where ideas are planted and carefully nurtured and cultivated as children learn about themselves and the world and are provided the knowledge and skills to successfully manipulate the environment around them. It does not matter if you come from wealth or poverty, the school is the one place where everyone matters and is treated equally, and is given the valuable life lessons that transform a young child into a responsible adult.

    The proposed cuts to public education come to about thirty percent of each school district’s annual budget. Imagine going to your job tomorrow and finding out one-third of the staff were no longer there, the number of customers was steadily increasing, and you were expected to provide the same quality services that existed before your coworkers were dismissed.

    The authors of the cuts (The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute – TXCCRI – whose board Senator Dan Patrick sits on) have proposed the elimination of pre-K programs citing that “state-funded pre-K programs make the assumption that four-year olds in Texas are better-off in a pre-K classroom than they would be if they were with their parents or guardians” and “the long-term benefits of pre-K are disputed at best.” This rationale is inherently flawed. There is extensive research that clearly demonstrates that children who attend high-quality pre-K programs are better prepared than their peers for success in school. It is also offensive. In today’s economy the number of stay at home moms is far fewer than it was in the 50s and 60s when many of our state legislators were being reared and to assume that parents are able to stay at home and care for their children introduces a class bias that is inappropriate and unwelcome in the debate about education funding.

    TXCCRI goes on to suggest the elimination of some 80,000 non-teaching positions including “coaches, librarians, counselors, nurses and educational aides, as well as campus and central administrators”. While there may be some excess to trim in central administration, school campuses are running with a bare minimum of support staff, often sharing critical team members such as counselors and nurses between multiple campuses. Students come to school facing a myriad of challenges; eliminating counselors is simply irresponsible. Also, with the long term effects of obesity on health, it is outrageous to suggest cutting coaches and in turn physical education.


    Another proposal is to increase classroom size. The current class size limit in elementary school is twenty-two (22) students per teacher. Anyone who has ever been around a bunch of children knows that it is extremely difficult to reign in twenty-two children simultaneously and keep them all focused in the “best” of circumstances. Add to that mix the fact that many children in the public education system come from impoverished, under-resourced communities and you no longer have the “best” of circumstances. Children come to school with different learning abilities as well. A teacher is expected to identify those abilities and reach each child at his or her level. Setting higher class size limits will make it much more difficult to manage a classroom and develop each child’s strengths. The result will be fewer students who are truly engaged in the learning process, and more children tuning out and leaving school before they graduate.

    Without a solid educational foundation, our youth face a future of uncertainty and hardship. They are thrown into a world where they do not have the tools to succeed or the skills they need to obtain life’s most basic resources. As a result many may make poor choices and end up in prison or in other dire situations. A single class of dropouts costs the state of Texas nearly $10 billion, primarily in lost wages (Communities In Schools of Texas). According to the National Institute of Corrections, the annual cost to house an inmate in Texas prisons was $15,527 in 2008. The annual cost to educate a student was $7,157 in Harris County and $7,978 statewide in 2008, according to Children At Risk. A small investment on the front end is a deterrent to a much greater expense on the back end.

    The irony in all this is that the people who say that they are representing us are not sending their children to public schools. While I cannot find the actual statistics to back up this claim, I can say with a good deal of certainty that the people who have the resources to get themselves elected to public office almost undoubtedly have the resources to send their children to well-funded, private schools where they receive the type of education that the average Texas voter can only hope his or her child will receive.

    The state of Texas has a rainy day fund of nearly $9 billion. This fund was set aside specifically for times like these, when the situation appeared so dire that we had no choice but to dip into our reserves. It is time to tap that fund so that no student has to suffer the fate of overcrowded, under-funded schools. Our future as a state depends on decisive action. We cannot move forward and remain competitive in a global economy if we shortchange our students today. Our failure to act will bring about consequences that impact all of us in ways we choose not to think about. Even those who feel like they are securely isolated from the fallout – those who can afford the best private schools and have unlimited resources – will feel the impact… whether it manifests in an inability to find a competent work force, or being the victim of a car-jacking when a child who has had his future stolen decides he will put food on the table, no matter what he has to do to make it happen.

    It is time for Texas legislators to act responsibly and to focus on the greater good. Not just your own personal interests or those of your financial backers, but the interests of the people who actually went to the polls and voted you in office. The future of our children – and of our state – rests in your hands.

    Lisa Sullivan
    Mother of Muhsin,
    Pre-K student, Houston ISD

  2. David M says:

    Ms. Sullivan, THANK YOU. You eloquence does you great credit. You are truly a voice of reason in this insane time. Thank you.

    David M
    Father of 2 elementary, 1 pre-k students, Houston ISD

  3. Ringo says:

    It occured to me that one of the most important thing parents could do to help the Public Schools is to find an alternative form of schooling for their child(ren). There are a number of Home school networks in the greater Houston area; parents could network with them and talk to other home school parents. Also, there are great Catholic schools in the area and many offer tuition assistance programs. The withdrawl of children from the public schools by responsible parents would take a lot of pressure off the public school budgets.

  4. […] a reminder about this. Monday, March 14th, 7 am – 7 pm: Legislative Day at the Texas Capitol in Austin, organized by […]