Unless Greg Abbott plans to turn the entire Texas Public Education system into charter schools and magnet academies, his latest campaign video still sheds little light on his position regarding education funding or traditional public schools. Abbott has received a lot of heat lately from both the media and his political opponents for being mum on major campaign issues and for his defense of the 2011 education budget cuts.
"I have a single quest and that is to find what we need to do to elevate education in the State of Texas to be ranked number one in the nation. In search of that quest I'm touring schools across the entire state of Texas."
The type of investment needed to achieve that goal hasn't been made by the state's legislature and as Attorney General Abbott has been there to defend them in court. According to a National Education Association study Texas ranks near the top in the increase in public school enrollment, but 44th in per student expenditures. Earlier this year a state Judge ruled in favor of the more than 600 school districts who were suing the state over funding. "There is no free lunch," said Justice John Deitz. "We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't."
See what's going on behind the scenes at the South Texas School District Abbott visited in the Ad...
While at a charter school in Weslaco, south Texas Abbott said, "It has stimulated competition in the education community to actually compete for the students seeking to enroll. This competition, this choice that parents have, the real consumers in the education arena, is going to transform the way education is provided and transform the quality of education in the state."
More and more it seems that the success of some charter schools are being used to distract from the greater issue of fixing failing public schools. Only 4% of Texas students are enrolled in charter schools, and that begs the question, what of the 96% of students they are not competing for? That must be answered if the State of Texas is to live up to it's constitutional obligation to provide a public education option for all students.
State Rep Mondo Martinez who represents Weslaco said,
"Greg Abbott fought against hundreds of school districts, including 16 from the Rio Grande Valley, and defended the state's unconstitutional budget cuts in court. His defense of the budget cuts, coupled with his silence on vouchers, shows how little he cares for our public schools."
Rep. Terry Canales who represents parts of Hidalgo County also criticized Abbott for his defense of public education cuts adding that, "Abbott and his friends are responsible for the loss of 575 jobs in our schools in Hidalgo County, including 235 teachers who are sorely missed in our classrooms."