Thursday, May 18, 2006

Does Texas' New Tax Plan Add-up for Education?

I was traveling most of the day today…so did not have occasion to ponder and post on the news of the day…like the new tax legislation passed in Austin, after—how many—five special sessions?

It’s pretty interesting to listen to the criticisms of the nuances of this new legislation, particularly from the education industry (don’t kid yourself—the school business is BIG business), which is apparently ignoring the $2,000 raises teachers won, and instead harping on all the new stuff they’re going to have to teach…like math and science.

Next year’s seventh graders will, by the time they are high school seniors, be required to complete four years of math and science in order to graduate.

Remember how the gloom-and-doomer’s have been crying “woe is we” because our high schools have been churning out functional illiterates? Remember how countless leaders and politicians have decried how American students are falling behind the rest of the world in science and technology? So when the State Legislature says teach ‘em four years of math and science, and you’d think they’d hair-lipped the Governor.

David Anthony, the Superintendent of Cy-Fair Schools, is quoted in today’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, griping that there are a lot of “logistics that haven’t been thought through.”
Apparently, teachers are now concerned there won’t be enough labs to go around. Next thing you’ll hear is that since they haven’t been able to teach the kids the current curriculum, how can they be expected to beef up the lesson plans?

Last time I checked, you could teach a pretty effect math class with a black board and a couple of pieces of chalk. If you want to go high-tech, use colored markers on a dry-erase board (and the image is crash-proof!)

Interestingly, today’s Chronicle also notes that while the passing rates on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (a.k.a. TAKS Test) were up fractionally, Texas students’s scores in math and science aren’t being misread for Mensa certification.

Teachers are already whining that because of the additional math and science class requirements, students will have to cut back on taking electives like art, football, and computer networking. (Glad to see they’re not picking on music education programs…or is that next?)

Why should kids not be able to learn math and science while also studying art, football, computer networking…and music? Is not art an expression of man’s perceptions of the universe? Why can’t those expressions include students’ observations of the sciences?

Is not music a poetic application of mathematics? (The best lesson in fractions I ever received was leaning to sub-divide rhythms.)

What teenaged sports fan can’t recite batting stats for their favorite slugger, or give you the standings and odds for winning of their favorite team? Is that not the perfect entrée to teaching and understanding the math behind statistics?

What skateboarder wouldn’t want to know about the basic physics of inertia, motion, friction and gravity?

The convergence of math and science in the realm of computer networking is so glaringly obvious as to render such comments as ridiculously stupid.

That students must forego fine arts and athletics electives for the sake of math and science is, frankly, pretty ignorant thinking for teachers.

Don’t get me wrong—I am the product of two career educators: My father was a band director and secondary school administrator, and my mother was an elementary school teacher. Both retired after working in the same school district for over 30-years. I have cousins my age who are now classroom teachers; I am well acquainted with the challenges they face.

But to pooh pooh plans for beefing up curriculums to improve the outcome of higher education is disingenuous for educators who truly want to see the next generation of Americans succeed and excel on the global stage.

1 comment:

Ray said...

I agree with you. However,the biggest problem with public education is the "No child left behind" act. Good idea,with no base of support,curriculum wise and financial. Second:Special Ed teachers are lumped in with regular curriculum teachers for evaluations,two completely different class situations! My wife has taught Special Ed for 16 years,and the support for such classes wane in comparasion to regular curriculums, and they often are shunted off to an out of sight classroom. Texas pay for Teachers is poor compared to many states. Their health insurance program is lousy,especially the current one of the last 2 years. We had to eliminate myself due to its costs and limited coverage. We don't need new stadiums,or more resort athletic complexes,we need good teachers that are certified ,and the only way that will increase is with better pay,and incentives. The Current pay raise by the way, included the recently "reinstalled" stipend of $500.00 to help offset the cost of insurance. That stipend started last Sept. So the actual pay raise by the legislature is not as large as the folks in Austin would like you to believe. Athletics is King in schools,and until that mentality is subdued, education in Texas will continue to lag. That is not the fault of the Teachers only the society we created that has allowed it to flourish.