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Opinion editorials by Katey LaFrance

as seen in the Liberal Opinion Week and other publications.
Member of the National Writer's Union.

"Dumbya presides over education
deficit in Texas"

   The latest opinion polls say more and more people believe George W. Bush would be good for education. I wonder if they've carefully followed his speeches and responses to questions during his campaign.

   Thinking he would be good for education seems naive, just based on his own self-presentation, let alone his policies as well as his track record in Texas. According to some recent quotes, "Dumbya" is pretty sure something is a budget, because, "It's got a lot of numbers in it." He is also pretty sure about the geography of our nation: when speaking of growing up in West Texas, he noted its proximity to California, saying, "It's pretty close to California. In more ways than Washington, DC is close to California."

   The same man who said, "Reading is the basics for all learning," will take it upon himself and his administration to ensure "teachers know the science of reading, so that they may teach effectively." Maybe they will then be able to answer his question, "Is our children learning?" Apparently, he has learned something, claiming, "As governor of Texas, I have set high standards for our public schools, and I have met those standards."

   George W. might also help you with your late summer canning as, he claims, "I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You preserve." Wonder how many bushels of corn they'd like delivered to the White House if he gets elected.

   Wading through the duplicate and convoluted statements of Bush's education policies, one can figure out that he is apparently opposed to any kind of national educational testing. Still, he would require states to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federal program designed to test a random sampling of students every two to four years. If "poorly performing" schools, using their own states' tests AND standards, as per Bush's plans, do not show improvement, "they'll have their federal money yanked away."

   In a display of that new beast, the oxymoronic "conservative compassion", he confusingly says, "If (children) are learning, we ought to give bonuses to schools for the poorest of the poor. But, if they trapped schools, that money would go to the school should go to the parent so the parent gets to make a different choice." (My emphasis.)

   With no mention of the effects of poverty on learning and family dynamics, Bush also wants to get tough on school discipline, advocating "tough love academies, and boot camps and, as the last stop, more beds in our juvenile justice system." Having no empathy for the large percentage of Americans who live in extreme poverty to lower middle class, he believes throwing children in boot camps and throwing school vouchers at parents will solve the education deficit.

   He also wants to throw money around to legislate morality through tripling funding for something he calls "character education." One wonders by whose yardstick he would measure character. If, as one suspects, he would use a Christian-based yardstick, there goes another brick in the already breached wall between church and state. Oh well, then he could refer to himself as a "born-again educator."

   Under George W's governorship, Texas more than doubled its spending on testing in schools from $16 million to $36 million. An investigation started last year, by a Texas comptroller's task force, is looking at charges of rampant and blatant cheating and manipulation of test scores. His own former education commissioner called the tests too easy. Dropout rates have increased; one fifth of Texas students do not receive a high school diploma; the average pay of Texas teachers is well below the national rates.

   According to a 1999 Children's Rights Council study, Texas was ranked the 48th worst place to raise a child. Before George W. became governor, it ranked 29th. Second only to California, Texas has 1.5 million children who live at or below the federal poverty level. Not surprisingly, it ranks 47th worst in hunger with 1 million Texans going hungry each day and 2.5 million households barely able to feed their families.

   While Bush talks about the so-called "education recession," it is apparent there has been an education "deficit" under his watch, as well as a children's health and well-being deficit. Ole Dubya is good for one thing and that is the Grand Old Petroleum party; children, minorities, and the less than wealthy need not apply.

© September 28, 2000 OoBraughLoo Press
All Rights Reserved