Rick Perry's Texas: High Drop Out Rates, Increased Poverty

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After serving 10 years as the state's governor Rick Perry's anti-government, tax loathing, low educational achievement standards, building prisons while gutting schools crusade has yielded an unprecedented number of high school dropouts and an increasing pool of under-educated, unskilled workers. The rate of poverty has also increased over the past decade.  According to an article in the Houston Chronicle a demographer at Rice University is truly frightened for the future of Texas.

The demographer who warned a decade ago about Texas' unhappy mix of dismal education achievement and high poverty is more concerned than ever. Actually, he's frightened.

Also getting restless are growing numbers of Texas business executives. Some don't see much leadership from politicians or the private sector in attacking the trend line that demographer Steve Murdock says will result in three of every 10 workers not having a high school education by 2040.

“I don't see business rearing up, and I sure don't see the state Legislature, with an $18 billion problem, saying, 'Man, we really need to muscle this thing up.' I think the thing that's going to change it is going to be another lawsuit,” said Jack Lowe, chairman of Dallas-based TDI Industries and a board member of the Texas Business and Education Coalition.

The pattern of an increasing pool of low-income workers and high drop out rates in the high schools has us fast tracked to third world country status. This is what happens when our elected lawmakers believe they are lobbyists that serve corporate interests.  The well-being of the people and the best possible educational and economic outcomes for the state never appear on their radar screens.  

“Clearly, with the dismal levels that we have in terms of education right now, that's clearly where we're headed,” Murdock said.

The trend line also is clear: School districts with large numbers of low-income students have higher dropout rates. Large school districts where low-income students make up at least 80 percent of the enrollment have dropout/attrition rates of 50 percent or more.

Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice University who headed the U.S. Census Bureau in the recent Bush administration, said Texas' large, young population would give the state a competitive advantage if educated and trained for the work force. Increasing the college graduation rate of Hispanics and African-Americans to that of whites could mean about $300 billion a year in additional income for Texans, he said.

“Every kid deserves to be educated, and we're going to figure out what it takes and do it,” said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. “The only way we will turn around public education in Texas is for the business community to realize that their future is at stake.”

If nothing changes, average Texas household incomes will be about $6,500 lower in 30 years than they were in 2000, according to Murdock's projections. That number is not adjusted for inflation, so it would be worse than it appears.

“It frightens me because it makes it difficult for Texas to achieve the things that all Texans want to achieve – that is, to be very competitive, to be an economic leader in the country and world,” Murdock said.

According to Professor Murdock the only hope for the state at this point is to ensure every student obtains a good, solid education. Without it  a person will be unemployable in the future. All would become burdens for the state whose bare existence would depend upon welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and SCHIP programs.  Worse, there will be a growing prison population as the undereducated, unemployable find certain forms of crime as a way to earn a living.

Learning, according to Murdock must begin well before a child is five or six.  This would mean every public school would have to set up pre-K programs for the 3-5 age groups.  Naturally this will be an expensive undertaking and I cannot imagine Rick Perry or any Texas Republican lawmaker, for that matter, making such a bold financial commitment to our schools.  These politicians have done everything they can to ensure that Texas schools are among the worst in the U.S.  

Education holds the key to our salvation and future.

Some work force experts say schools must work more closely with employers to include more career and technology pathways.

“If it is proven that relevant, hands-on education keeps them in school and they have lower dropout rates, then we have got to acclimate those students to a relevant education,” said Terri Patterson, director of Workforce Development for the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and a member of the Texas Business and Education Coalition.

Murdock said it's critical for Texans to understand “that our future is tied to these kids' future.”

I am sorry but once again, pigs would grow wings and fly before Rick Perry and his party would support education in such a bold fashion.  None would be willing to make the financial commitment for one thing because it would likely mean increasing taxes at some level or the reliance on federal grants and initiatives. God forbid should the feds give us a few bucks to shore up our abysmal school system. The governor and his party would rather keep us on the fast track to third world country living.  In 30 years the under educated, poverty stricken American kids will be sneaking into places like China to find decent work.

Shame on Rick Perry and shame on all politicians that serve as corporate lobbyists and tools for the private sector while ignoring the people and the needs of Texas.

Not one of them deserves to hold office.  

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