Re: Debate whoppers (gettin' down on Bushucation)

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From: Wayne E Baisley (
Date: Mon Oct 09 2000 - 08:13:51 PDT

Things are not so rosy en las escuelas de Tejas, as Geege, right as
usual, has pointed out. Details follow.

But first, a bit of FoRK interconnectedness. One of the key Texas State
Legislators for education is Scott Hochberg. He was named one of the
top 10 TSLs by
Texas Monthly last year. Scott and I were roommates at Rice.

Scott was also the Program Director for the campus radio station, KTRU.
We called it 'The Radio', pronounced 'Thuh Radio'. The previous PD was
a fellow EE two years ahead of us, and someone you've heard of. We
called him 'Thuh John Doerr', although not usually to his face. I
worked on thuh station's news crew, and Scott and I made some waves with
a story we broke about how the McGovernites had written off Texas in
72. That was really all Scott's doing. I was completely clueless about
politics then (I'm sure many of you have no trouble believing that), and
was just following leads Scott thought up, calling people Scott knew.

I asked Scott about Bush's record on education. He said ...

As one who has worked with W for the last 6 years, I believe his
education claims are mostly bogus. His plusses:

1.) He does believe that all children can learn.

2.) He supports expansion of advanced placement courses.

His minuses:

1.) He is so into the concept of "local control" that he has forgotten
about checks and balances, and would if allowed eliminate all state
requirements except testing. Had we let him, he would have, for
example, eliminated our class size cap for k-4 (which he has started
doing anyway by allowing the education commission to "waive" the
requirement without any question for around 4,000 classrooms and the
number is growing). It was enough of a priority for him that he had his
staff "twisting arms" on the House floor during the debate.

2.) He talks about getting kids ready to learn, but then opposed
expansion of kindergarten and pre-k programs, even though the cost was
fairly small, because he said his tax cut was more important.

3.) The accountability system that he brags about was passed and signed
by Ann Richards, not Bush. His education commissioner has fought every
attempt to make sure the testing system includes as many kids as
possible. The scores have been manipulated, so that a "70" passing score
is now defined as getting as few as 53% of the questions correct, which
is too bad because it casts a shadow on the good performances as well as
the bad.

4.) One reason we have come a long way here is that we have gotten much
closer to equal funding for poor schools districts and wealthy school
districts. His only initiative in this area has been to widen to gap
instead of closing it - something he felt strongly enough about that I
got called to the governor's office to work something out with the
attorney for one of the wealthiest districts (and he then ignored what I
was trying to do and gave them everything they wanted.)

5.) For the most part, his increases in state funding for education have
required an equal decrease in local property taxes, so while it fits as
property tax relief, it did nothing for the budgets of the schools.

6.) He has very little interest in public higher education or
scholarships, has told various people that we would be better off
without public higher ed institutions and that he's not supportive of
them because they waste money.

What has happened each session is that he has rolled out some great
sounding education initiative that we have had to rewrite and turn into
something that had some value. He either doesn't have a clue, or is
simply more interested in a good soundbite.

Sorry if I went on a bit, but it does stick in my craw to have him
oppose stuff and then take credit for passing it.....
Best to Kate and the kids.


There you have the inside scoop. Whether this bodes good or ill for a
Bush Department of Education remains to be seen. There are certainly
those who feel the Feds should butt out (does the DoE do anything
useful?) of the states' business of educating. Which is fine as long as
there are enough Hochbergs to go around.


P.S. I spent 6 of my school years in the Houston Independent School
District. That probably explains something.

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