Texas public schools seem forever targeted for political debate. From lawsuits over how much money they have and how it is distributed, to topics covered in textbooks, to how hard high school students should be pushed to learn algebra, political and philosophical disagreements abound. From your own experience, do you have a favorable view of Texas schools, or are you unhappy?Since we all benefit if our population is more educated, public education shouldn’t really be a partisan issue. Texas needs to fully and equitably fund pre-K-through-university education for the future of our state.Beyond that, the best move Texas could make to improve education would be to better the lives of the poor and near-poor by expanding Medicaid and raising the minimum wage. As a just-retired teacher, I can tell you that poverty is the single-biggest obstacle many students face to getting an education. — Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue, Fort WorthI live in the Northwest ISD, one of the fastest growing and best school districts in the state. Outstanding district leadership and educators, innovative programs and a focus on making students “future-ready” set the district apart. Students and every member of the community benefit from the results.Not everyone is as fortunate, but everyone can help. We need to invest in public education, just like we need to invest in healthcare because a healthy, well-educated population is key to how the country performs in the global economy. If we are healthy and well-educated, we can address all the other opportunities and issues we face.Whether you like public schools or hate them, everyone who cares about the future should read the book Schools Cannot Do It Alone, by business executive and attorney Jamie Vollmer.We have a moral obligation to provide the best public education on earth. — Dave Edstrom, Trophy ClubAs a parent, I was pleased with the education my children received in Texas schools. However, we were very involved in their education through volunteering, attending field trips and conferencing with their teachers, which definitely enhances a child’s school experience. During my career as a public school teacher, I was saddened to see how often parents take little interest in what is happening in their child’s school. Sometimes the only communication a parent initiated with me was to complain when their child received a consequence for disruptive or disrespectful behavior.Administrators can make effective teaching more difficult by spending time scrutinizing classrooms to see if the buzzwords or data charts from the latest “program” the district purchased (for thousands of dollars), are posted, rather than helping teachers maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning with fewer discipline problems and disruptions, or by modeling effective lessons and mentoring struggling teachers. — Linda Price, Fort WorthPublic schools are a microcosm of society, good and bad. In Texas, we have some really great schools, good ones and some that don’t fare so well. We have many good and great students, and some who struggle.The political right has been wrongly vilifying public education for decades. Most of our schools do a good job in spite of the resistance of Republican state legislatures and their myopic budget-cutting. Good schools and good people staffing them are in abundance. Imagine, though, how much better public ed could be if teachers were paid as well as their counterparts in the private sector, if they received the resources necessary to allow them to do their jobs, support from their administrators and most important, the freedom to teach without high-stakes testing being held over their heads. Thank a teacher. — Dave Robinson, Fort WorthI thought I had a good education, because I graduated in the top 12 percent of my high school class. I realized my knowledge gap when I was stationed in Germany. I was meeting Europeans my age who were better educated and knew more than I did but were just average in their culture, being pink- or blue-collar workers.I was caught off-guard, but by Texas standards I was well-educated.Republicans have governed Texas since Ann Richards left office in 1995, and after 19 years of Republican rule, Texas ranks 44th in graduation rates and 47th in SAT scores, based on a 2013 Texas Legislative Study Group report.Republicans have underfunded education while sitting on an $8 billion rainy-day fund. The Republicans’ only solution is to voucherize education. Texas should adequately fund education. In a 2012 National Education Association report, Texas was rated 49th out of 50 states. — Wayne Cobb, MansfieldBecause of rapid engineering retirements and a growing economy, Gov. Perry’s office has identified a need to expand Texas’ capacity to train engineers. The UT and A&M Systems have responded with plans to double their capacity to educate students for engineering careers over the next 10 years. (UTA plans to increase from 4,900 to 10,000.) A huge challenge is to attract high school graduates to select STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors.Kudos to the Arlington, Birdville, Burleson, Crowley, Denton, Fort Worth, Granbury, Keller, Mansfield, Northwest and Waxahachie school districts for their investments in PLTW (Project Lead The Way) Programs. PLTW provides introduction to engineering courses and has a positive track record encouraging students to both attend college and select STEM majors. If you live in these districts, support their efforts. If your district does not have PLTW, encourage them to consider it. — Matt Blanton, Arlington Member, UTA College of Engineering Board of AdvisorsAn enormous amount of money is involved, and changes will be made. But it won’t improve education as much as parental direction and involvement would!I have attended three family university graduations. Most graduate academic achievement awards went to foreign students or students born of parents from other countries. Why? — George J. Anthony, Fort WorthWe have enough money for education, but we should redirect it to teachers and students. Administration absorbing almost 50 percent of the budget is unacceptable.Return to core learning (reading, writing, arithmetic). Avoid fad curriculum changes that line promoters’ pockets.Return to discipline in homes and school.Consider Mrs. Carson’s playbook (neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson’s mom). Without money and education, she took her two failing, incorrigible boys weekly to the library. Although grumbling and complaining, they read two books a week. They presented written and oral reports to their mom.Her boys began to learn and answer questions in class and lost their “attitudes.” Ben Carson is one son, the other is a scientist.What would happen if all socio-economic levels demanded the same of their children? Think we would see real education? No need for more money. — Judy Strickland, Fort WorthAfter 30 years of teaching in high schools in New York and Texas, I believe public schools have survived well, considering politics have interfered with their standards and beliefs.Every few years, education “specialists” (most of whom have not taught more than a few years or even at all) influence politicians or get to be politicians who make decisions about the education process.Every time the government votes new guidelines, it is the schools that work within them as best they can, but also work passionately for the best needs of the students. I have seen ridiculous changes to re-named agendas of 10-20 years ago.People who have spent 15 or more years teaching should be elected to decision-making positions on education. — Fred Krause, Fort Worth
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