Bill White’s Sloppy Homework

Last week Bill White, the Democratic candidate for governor, issued a press release on the state of public education in Texas. His campaign quoted an Empower Texans critique that “Texas taxpayers are ‘not getting our money’s worth’ in Texas’ education system.” However, Mr. White took it a step further and linked these concerns into an attack on Republican Gov. Rick Perry. If this assignment had been turned in for a grade, it would get sent back with red marks all over it.

In his famous speech A Time for Choosing, Ronald Reagan said, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.”

Michael Quinn Sullivan, the president of Empower Texans, had posted an article and video raising questions about how local school districts are spending taxpayer dollars. School districts in Texas spend about $11,000 per student, which means an average classroom is worth about $250,000 in funding. Yet less than $50,000 is spent on teacher salaries, on average.

In his press release, Mr. White’s contention appears to be that Gov. Perry is at fault for the spending decisions made by locally elected school boards, and the board-appointed superintendents. Empower Texans has sought to expose the general spending habits of school districts, in an effort to bring about greater transparency for taxpayers.

And to help ensure education dollars are actually being spent educating kids, not just growing bureaucracies.

Mr. White doesn’t seem to grasp that local control is one of the highest regarded tenants of our public education system. While clear guidance and standards should probably come from the state to ensure there’s an equivalent level of basic knowledge and skills that each high school graduate has mastered, it’s not been the purview of the state to universally dictate all spending decisions.

Is this what Bill White will attempt to usher in if elected governor?

It would seem most Texans would oppose a full-scale command-and-control education system thrust upon them from Austin. Going beyond local control, many taxpayers are calling for greater transparency in order to hold their local officials accountable for spending decisions.

Far from an indictment of Gov. Perry, our criticism of public education spending is precisely the reason why we need strict budget hawks at all levels of government – including (and especially) in our schools.

As for Mr. White’s homework, Empower Texans has to give him an F.

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