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Jason Stanford

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Only Orwell -- and Texas Republicans -- Think Less Money Improves Schools

Posted: 07/04/2012 9:37 am

If someone tries to tell you that both parties are the same, make them read the platform for the Republican Party of Texas.  The 59-page document reads like a conservative's fever dream. In ganging up on gays, single women and immigrants, Republicans jettisoned the "Judeo" and ignored Christ's actual teachings. What used to represent the outer reaches of their flat-Earth society is now their new mainstream: privatizing Social Security, using public money for private school vouchers, and returning to the gold standard. And this being Texas, the Republicans broke new ground in stupid by calling for a ban on programs that teach critical thinking because they "have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

But that's not the worst of it. On page 17 of their hymnal, Texas Republicans wrote this: "Since data is clear that additional money does not translate into educational achievement, and higher education costs are out of control, we support reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education institutions."

You can't say they don't support teaching the classics in Texas, because whoever wrote that has read George Orwell. Either that, or Orwell has been writing our education budgets. The state's top budget officer might claim that Texas has increased school spending, but the fact is that Texas Republicans are already making progress on cutting education funding. In 2011, they slashed per-pupil spending by $500. Overall it was a $5.4 billion haircut for education, the first reduction in the school budget since the Great Depression.

Somehow lower spending has not resulted in higher scores. Texas schoolchildren routinely fail the National Assessment of Education Process, though one education researcher, Dr. Paul Peterson of Harvard, accused state officials of "trying to obscure that to their citizens."

Mitt Romney didn't commit a gaffe when he laid out his vision of equal opportunity in America by saying, "I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they're able to get." Romney was reading from prepared, vetted remarks. Education, Republicans believe, is not an unalienable right that makes the pursuit of happiness possible. Instead, Republicans believe education is a commodity, and your access to it is limited only by money and time.

That's not equal access. That's thuggery in which the rich rob the poor before they're born. But you don't need to point out the Republicans' class warfare to make this point. All you need to do is read the Texas Constitution that requires the state "establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools" because a "general diffusion of knowledge" is "essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people."

If you take the time to read the Texas Republican platform, you find only qualified support for preserving the "liberties and rights of the people." In that epic poem of authoritarianism, you can spill the blood of someone else's kid to preserve your right to cheap gas, but damned if you're going to spend your own money to help that returning soldier go to college. Gosh, that might even challenged his fixed beliefs and undermine parental authority.

This is a political platform in the worst sense, projecting a shadow of their insecurities and selfish fantasies over Texas state government. But maybe I'm not giving them enough credit. The Republican platform might be a jobs program, albeit one that only helps writers of political humor and dystopian science fiction. It's almost as if "Lord of the Flies" was the only thing Republicans remember from school, and they thought it was a how-to.

Conservatives apply the belief that you get what you pay for to everything from CEO bonuses to $40 steaks. But somehow that market principle never applies to public schools. To these Republicans, your kid's right to a quality education depends on your ability to afford private school. Perhaps we do need a Bible literacy component to the Texas public school curriculum if only so Republicans can learn that the real meaning of Matthew 19:14 is not to make little children suffer.

 

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