Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Save Our Schools Rally in Austin

Last Saturday afternoon a rally was held in Austin that was touted as a show of support for teachers and students facing painful state budget cuts. The numbers in attendance varied from organizer claims of 11,000 to citizen journalist claims of 2,000.

Those attending were the usual suspects as seems to be the pattern of rallies led by the left side of politics - the International Socialist Organization, the Social Workers Party and Organizing for America. All are far left organizations beholden to union support. Organizing for America is the Obama re-election wing of the Democratic National Committee.

My friend, Holly, has photos, too.

As has been reported by others, this was mostly just an anti-Governor Perry rally. As the re-election campaign of Barack Obama inches nearer and the unions watch as their grip on taxpayer funded benefits and salaries shrinks, the left leaning organizations will become more shrill and hateful towards the other side. Look at the death threats and intimidation tactics used against Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin as they dealt with state budget issues.

The rally was touted as a nonpartisan effort, but the feeling in the crowd was distinctly anti-Perry. Chants of “it's raining, it's pouring, but Rick Perry's snoring” and slogans like “Flunk Perry” were plentiful. The publicity surrounding the event provoked a press release from the conservative activist group Americans For Prosperity, who called it a “front for unions” and “raising taxes.”

“Save Texas Schools is a liberal group posing as a non-partisan, education advocacy organization,” said Texas state director Peggy Venable in a statement, adding, “We can cut education spending without cutting instruction or teachers. But educrats are calling in all of their forces to oppose any education cuts.”

Instead of logical cuts, such as in the bloated administrations of local school districts and out of touch perks offered to enhance salaries, the unions and their supporters want to make the argument all about teacher lay offs and larger classroom size. These measures won't need to be taken if excess can be eliminated from outside the classroom.

Here is a video produced with a retired teacher expressing the other side of the union's argument:

The initiative is called "Protect Our Classrooms". The focus is on students and education instead of teacher contracts and administrative inefficiency. School administrators are claiming the budget shortfall solution is to fire teachers and do away with school programs when the more honest solution is to look at the administrative spending decisions. No one wants the state budget balanced on the backs of teachers in the classroom. The demand is for more responsible stewardship of monies by the decision makers in the school districts - school boards and superintendents.

It is important for all cuts possible to be made before any decision is made to spend money from the Rainy Day Fund. It will be needed in the coming years, thanks to exploding Medicaid costs at the state level. The same is true for the continued rise in funding demands from school districts.

"Over the last 20 years, state spending on public education has grown two-and-a-half faster than population growth plus inflation. Between 1999 and 2009, Texas increased its per-pupil spending by 47 percent after adjusting for inflation. Texas taxpayers have generously supported public education during the good years, but now is a time when we need our schools to set careful priorities, operate more efficiently, and come up with new ideas and models to deliver quality instruction.

“Research shows that the most important factor in a student’s academic success is the quality of the teacher. But in too many cases, barely half of the money spent in public education makes it to the classroom. Texas schools employ as many non-teachers as teachers, and the non-teaching staff has grown by 76.6 percent since 1989.

Now, more than ever, we need strong wills and honest assessment of the needs of our state budget. Common sense solutions are out there - our lawmakers just need to listen to the voters demanding them.

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