| This morning I headed out from the Great Wolf Lodge extra early to catch a small discussion with Governor Howard Dean and AFT's Randi Weingarten over at The PPL about education and what we can do as progressives on this crucial issue.
Education looks to be a key issue in Texas this election cycle, after the Republican legislature cut $5 billion from our kids' public schools. Now, Republican Senator Dan Patrick is clamoring to remove even more funding from our communities' public schools via vouchers. These are the kinds of policies that Weingarten and Dean spoke out against, along with other efforts to exacerbate the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots." Weingarten noted that the gap between the rich and poor is wider and starker than it has ever been before, and that our public schools are on the front lines of addressing the needs of the 1 in 4 children that live in poverty. She made clear that public education answers the question of how we as a society can mitigate poverty and provide the best and brightest future for all of our kids.
Dean and Weingarten directly called for bold leadership to address the multitude of crises our students and teachers face. Weingarten described it as a "triple whammy" facing our education system and the people in it: schools are getting cut and losing funding, students aren't getting the information they deserve, and for-profit enterprises are trying to harvest what money remains in our schools through strategies that have been proven not to work for our children. She noted the sharp difference between those of us on the Left trying to make schools and education better using techniques that are proven to get results, and those on the Right who want to tear down our public schools, demonize teachers, and abandon investment in education.
Not surprisingly, the AFT chief -- who is an extremely impressive and inspiring woman, might I add -- called for collective action to remedy what ails our public schools. "Individuals don't have any power without collective action," she stated. We need to stay united and resist right-wing tricks to pit parents against teachers and divide us by socio-economic status. While some kids are born with all the opportunity in the world, there are a whole lot of people that need to have the field leveled in order to achieve their potential. We need to raise up the level of opportunity for those on the bottom. If we want to excel in the STEM fields, Weingarten stated, we must create an environment where kids imagine what it is like to be a scientist. She spoke of 5th graders in New Mexico who were clamoring for science, but due to high-stakes-testing-driven curricula had never had science or social studies classes. She called on those in attendance to help get these stories out and share the on-the-ground struggles faced by our educators.
It was a great session. We need to tell the stories about what is going on in our Texas schools, and get the message out about the dire costs of Republican budget cuts to our Texas schoolchildren. That's definitely something we can bring back from Charlotte and start implementing in our communities, and a great way to keep living our Democratic values long after the convention gavels out.