Voucher Lobby: Still Misleading Texans

Empower Texans (ET), a relatively new and aggressive pro-vouchers group, is continuing the far right’s campaign to undermine confidence in Texas public schools.

In May, ET president Michael Quinn Sullivan made statements focused on school spending and the ratio of teachers to non-teachers that are, at best, deliberately misleading. Example: Sullivan noted that there are almost as many non-teachers as teachers in Texas schools, suggesting that all of those non-teachers are “bureaucrats”:

“Do we really need one non-teacher for every teacher on the public school payroll? . . . Hey, we’ve got bureaucrats to play. What value do they bring to the classroom? Very little.”

The standard state report on school employment issued in March 2010 provides some inconvenient information for ET and other fact-challenged critics from the far right. Among the just over 300,000 state employees listed as non-teachers, less than four percent are administrators. The majority — which includes classroom aides, counselors, librarians, speech therapists and bus drivers — serve students directly on a daily basis. They are hardly “bureaucrats” — the right’s favorite epithet, usually said with a sneer, for many people who work in public service.

Politifact pronounced Sullivan’s assertions “Mostly True” but concluded that “Sullivan’s online call to action doesn’t do do justice to the state’s actual mix of school workers.”

We would call ET’s claim “Mainly Misleading,” a rating that reflects both the intent and most likely result of reading their selective presentation of data. To that point, one respondent to ET’s “analysis” said this on the group’s website: “It’s time to create education vouchers for all students. Give each child $7000 and refund the other $4000 (per student) to taxpayers. Go find your own private school, one which will not teach socialist and other degenerate values.”

Texas Freedom Network and most Texans — regardless of political persuasion — want our public schools to succeed, which is also essential to the future economy of our state. Perhaps therein lies the disconnect between the public interest and organizations, such as Empower Texans, that campaign to divert our tax dollars to support student vouchers, mismanaged charter schools and other unproven alternatives to traditional neighborhood schools. The way to create the best public schools is through civil, reality-based dialogue and constructive action involving all the stakeholders in education. We encourage steps in this direction by Empower Texans and others currently devoted to fostering confusion and division among our citizens.

5 thoughts on “Voucher Lobby: Still Misleading Texans

  1. Sullivan, ET and other voucher promoters need to be reminded that vouchers violate the Texas constitution. And also that Texans are opposed to vouchers, as have been the tens of millions of voters from coast to coast who have rejected vouchers or anything similar in over 25 statewide referendum elections by an average margin of two to one. The data are on our web site — arlinc.org. — Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty

  2. I would like to make a couple of statements that are going to be very unpopular. These statements are largely a result of my own observations in my public schools when I was growing up, obsersations from conversations out on the streets, my own experience from having two kids in public school now, and input from my cousin who is a math professor at a college:

    1) I think it should be pronounced “Vooshay.”

    2) Let’s be honest here. “No Child Left Behind” is mostly nonsense, as are special schools and Vooshays. Why? You are not going to like this, but here it comes at you anyway. Many kids really are dumber than dirt. Some of it is genetics. Some of it is environment. Some of it is unknown. If you were to pound knowledge into their heads with sledge hammers, it would merely ooze out the ears. These kids are not some new or recent creation, as some would have us believe. We had tons of them back when I was in school (1959-1971). Since that time, our incessant national hand-wringing about education had been centered on these people. How do we a turn a moron with a flat-line brain readout into a Ph.D in physics? The answer is simple. You DO NOT. Any pretense that you can is a waste of time and national treasure. No amount of teacher pay, magnet schools, or vooshays is going to change that hard fact. What’s that you say? Our old mindless factory jobs of the 1960s are going away rapidly, and the future belongs to highly educated people who can do high-tech jobs. Therefore we have to find a way to turn our morons into Einsteins. No way. No matter how hard you try, a fresh concrete block will not pass urine for you.

    3) My relative the math professor tells me that vast numbers of kids are coming to college without even the most rudimentary math skills. Now, you are probably wondering what I mean by the term “rudimentary math skills.” You probably think that must be something like making an inadvertent calculation error in Step 2 while solving an equation in three variables. No. That’s not it. I mean 18-year-old kids that DO NOT know that 3 X 4=12 and do not know how to measure an object with a common 12-inch ruler. My relative specializes in remedial college math and sees literally 100s of them. It has been described to me as a vast and pitiful site. Why? Well, one reason is that the morons in Item 2 (above) are being encouraged to go to college and become Einsteins. Yes, some colleges will accept just about anyone. My relative also assigns a lot of blame to the math teachers in K-12. For those kids who do not appear to be total morons, they have not been prepared properly in math. Just how do you go K-12 in math and come out not knowing how to use a ruler? Somebody is slacking.

    4) I shall now give an example of this slacking from my own experience. My daughter attends high school in one of the best high schools in the United States in one of the best public school sytems in the United States. She is a smart kid like Kathy Miller. When she was a sophomre in high school, she took Honors Geometry. I went to school orientation where all the parents meet with the teachers and talk about class content and what it will be like for the kids. Here is the first thing out of the mouth of the teacher. This is a quote: “Research has shown that the brains of most high school freshman are not cognitively capable of learning geometry and learning it well. Their brains have just not developed enough at this stage in their life. Therefore, don’t be surprised if many of your child do poorly in this course.” Well, my kid studied and still did poorly in the geometry course. Later on when she had developed more she made As and Bs in the tougher algebra courses.

    But let’s rest here for a minute. When the teacher was spouting all of this vast knowledge about child development and cognition, I was apparently the only parent in the room that thought, “Well, if that is true, why do you want to do a &*&%$# fool thing like teaching geometry to high school freshmen. Why not do it in their junior year like I did so they will learn it? Again, this was an example of a stupid school administrator or math teacher’s decision to short-change my child’s education and the education of other children by doing something that they knew was stupid and wrong. They did it anyway. This sort of crap has got to stop in our public schools.

    Personally, I think it will stop only when we figure out the basics in hiring teachers and paying them properly. Do not hire a teacher with a degree in education. Hire teachers with a real major: geology, chemistry, biology English, Spanish, psychology, etc. Hire only the teachers who did well in college. If your overall GPA (not just in your major) was less than 3.8 out of 4.0, you do not teach in my public school. Figure out whether the person has any real talent for teaching. You can have the numerical credentials and still be a lousy teacher. Pay teachers well enough to attract this sort of person to the field of teachhing in K-12.

  3. Vooshay. I like it.

    I can vouch for what Charles says by my own experience. I had enough trouble with arithmetic when I was in grade school yet excelled at English, history, geography, and just about anything else that wasn’t arithmetic. That continued to junior high when I was one of the lucky kids (not!) who was treated to an experiment in math education: New Math. People ask me today What is New Math?, and I can’t even answer their question. I think New Math was taught for a few years before it was discovered that it was screwing up too many kids and was discontinued. So, thanks to my experience with New Math, I continued to have difficulty with math for the rest of my high school life. I struggled with my algebra homework every night, with the help of my dad who was an electrical engineer.

    Thanks to my school experience, I accepted that I was just a retarded person who couldn’t do math: “math is for smart people, and I’m not one of them.” (Actually, I wasn’t as bad as Charles’ example. I knew how to measure with a ruler and knew my multiplication table. It was story problems and algebra and binomials that nailed me).

    Much later in my adult life I returned to college. Of course, I failed the math part of the entrance exam. But thanks to my high marks on the non-math part of the exam, I was accepted into college with the provision that I take Remedial Math. I did well in that and passed the exam. During my college career, I had to take Intermediate Algebra – or College Algebra – to satisfy the requirements, and I shocked myself that not only could I DO algebra, I actually kind of enjoyed it!!

    So, I like what Charles says above. Actually gives me some relief to know that it wasn’t due to lack of trying! I had given it ALL I had to give at the time. My brain was just not ready to absorb the material yet.

  4. Thanks Cytocop.

    I think some of our readers may have thought I was joking or excessing with the part about the 12-inch ruler and 3 X 4 =12. Nope. These are the things my relative the math professor actually tells me when I go to visit, and they are apparently not just one time phenomena.

    I experienced a similar problem back in the 1980s when I asked a young man behind the meat counter at Kroger to cut a pork roast into 1/4-inch slices for me. He went back, cut it up and proudly presented it to me in huge slices an inch or more thick. I proceeded to send him back to the meat saw multiple times and guided him by trial and error down to the requested 1/4 inch. This was a customer experience that should have taken maybe 5 minutes tops. I bet it took 15-20 minutes—or more. Ignorance is a wasteful and costly thing.

    However, the answer is not for Paige Patterson to establish 7000 Southern Baptist schools across Texas and teach Christian fundamentalism to all our kids. The answer is to honestly appraise the circumstances in our public schools and fix them.