With the Legislature convening Jan. 8, there is a lot of talk about improving our public schools and our students' achievement. These are worthy goals for assuring a strong future for our state, but much of this discussion is being generated by self-styled education "experts" who haven't been inside a classroom since they were in college.They are dancing around the real issue. The bottom line for good public schools is not more testing, private school vouchers or some other privatization scheme. The bottom line is adequate, equitable funding, beginning with a restoration of last session's deep budget cuts.And the real education experts are not those who view the public schools as profit centers for corporate enrichment. The real education experts are educators, and we hope the governor and the legislative majority will start listening to them.Gov. Rick Perry and his legislative allies ignored educators last session while slashing $5.4 billion from public education. At least 25,000 school jobs were lost, thousands of classrooms were overcrowded, electives were trimmed, some neighborhood schools were closed and some parents had to pay for their children to ride school buses.The cuts were the last straw for more than 600 school districts, which sued the state in pursuit of a sound funding system. Although the school finance trial will be completed soon, it may be a year or longer before the Texas Supreme Court considers an appeal and issues a final ruling. But the Legislature can start repairing the damage from the cuts now.The rainy-day fund will have more than $8 billion by the end of the current budget period, according to the comptroller, and probably will get larger in our improving economy. General revenue tax collections also are running at least $5 billion ahead of projections. That is enough money to begin restoring school funding, close a Medicaid shortfall and meet other critical state needs.But Perry and others have downplayed Texas' improved financial footing in favor of promoting schemes, such as private school vouchers, which would benefit a few profiteers at the expense of most schoolchildren.The overwhelming majority of Texas children will continue to be educated in traditional public schools. It is wrong to divert tax dollars to vouchers, especially when school districts are still struggling from budget cuts.Research compiled by the National Education Association shows no conclusive evidence that vouchers in other states have improved student performance. But lack of public accountability has resulted in waste and abuse in some voucher programs.Many parents are justifiably furious over the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests, and hundreds of school officials are warning against over-testing. The requirement that end-of-course exams count for 15 percent of students' grades has been deferred again, but the high-stakes pressure of a standardized test is still there to interfere with the classroom learning experience.We must get our priorities in order. Restore school funding first. Give teachers and students the resources they need to succeed, and then create a fair accountability system that is based on more than test scores.Great public schools require accountability from everyone, including the policymakers at the state Capitol.Rita Haecker is president of the Texas State Teachers Association.