Letters: Readers Offer Ideas About Fixing and Funding Education in Texas

Four areas to addressSB2 appears to be a bandage when what is needed is a new public education finance plan. All the stats and tweaks have had little or no effect on student education. The Dallas Morning News pointed this out in the Feb. 10 Points section. We need to address four areas: 1.) Eliminate the Robin Hood recapture and use the Rainy Day fund to make up $ 2.5 billion. 2.) Stop putting these and any dedicated school funds into general obligation fund to keep our legislators from dipping into the pot. 3.) Unfunded mandates are an extra expense on city/county government; eliminate or fund them. 4.) Dedicate 100 percent of Texas Lottery funds to public education. Get back to the state funding 70 percent of public education.Tom Polston, McKinneyStudy schools in poor areasI commend the newspaper for the numerous excellent articles on improving public education statewide. The paper, public officials, educators and families have been addressing this challenge way before my family and I arrived here 30-plus years ago. Since the origins of ZIP Codes worldwide, data has been collected revealing that, all too often, one's future is determined by one's ZIP Code. However, much can be learned by studying outliers, i.e., schools in poor ZIP Codes that produce excellent students. In 1960, Union Hill High School in Union City, N.J., sent only 3 percent of its graduates to college and was identified as one of the worst districts nationwide. Today, Union Hill is one of the best districts not only in New Jersey but nationwide. Why not study this and other similar districts and modify their approaches to fit Texas? One thing I am pretty sure such research will reveal is property taxes are limited to adequately and fairly finance public education. The fairest tax is a progressive state income tax, which is anathema to many Texans.Jerry Frankel, PlanoWe need more than moneyRe: "Texas' education EMERGENCY - Schools aren't meeting the needs of the economy, and that must change," Feb. 10 Points.It was disappointing to read another editorial that failed to address significant solutions, other than increased funding of the public school system. The constant focus on funding fails to hold accountable the elite educators and the teachers union for decades of failure. The rest of the world has found ways to provide successful education systems, with longer school days, more school days and emphasis on the basics. It's no surprise that more education produces more qualified students. Some of our worst school districts have the highest pay, the shortest days and the least number of full teaching days. We are falling behind and we would do well to observe what the leaders are doing differently.John Brennan, ShermanBusiness has the most to gainRe: "High-quality education for all - Legislature must recognize the economic benefit of better outcomes for each Texan," by Fred Jones, Feb. 10 Points.By improving education you get "... increasing graduation rate ... 250 new jobs ... $390,000 in ... tax revenue... ." This is an explicit recognition of who benefits from better education: business, the individual and government. Yet policy doesn't seem to recognize this.The students can't pay for their K-12 education. The parents benefit only tangentially. The government doesn't generate income through work (salaries), so it benefits from increased taxes on the individual, which in Texas is only what's gained through sales tax.So who's the beneficiary of better-educated students with more earnings? Businesses. That's who gets a direct benefit along with the student. All other benefits are indirect. After all, the University of Texas at Dallas was started by businesses because of a need for a better-educated workforce. Yet where is the discussion about the benefits to businesses? They can adjust their business model based on tax laws, where salary earners cannot. Why is this area not being explored?As our workforce education lags, companies may start doubting the benefits of lower taxes as their costs increase. They will adjust and it will impact prices, output, growth and more.Michael Bulkeley, RichardsonDallas doesn't budget responsiblyRe: "The source of tax troubles," by Doloris Lajoie, and "Rate increase cap won't work," by Israel Rozemberg, Feb. 9 Letters.I agree with most of Lajoie's and Rozemberg's reasons for high property taxes - from charter school vouchers to lack of adequate state funding to corporate welfare and unrealistic property valuations. Both writers state that by fixing these problems a cap is not needed, due to cities budgeting and spending responsibly.Dallas City Hall does not know how to do either. The small fortune spent on removing the Lee statue; the total fiasco and lack of oversight of the Dallas County school buses; the Dallas Police Pension Fund that was allowed to buy speculative real estate; and the mismanagement of Fair Park that operated in secrecy. All of which cost taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars.It seems that no one at City Hall has the taxpayers' best interest at heart. Recently a member stated that Dallas citizens were spoiled. Cap! Cap! Cap! Taxes! What is the worst that can happen? We are already used to slow police response times and potholes.Manny Munoz, DuncanvilleTax breaks for wind farmsI read with interest several readers' letters to the editor about the cap on residential taxes and their effect. It might be interesting for them to know about the huge tax abatements under Chapter 312 that allow massive tax breaks to large industries. Interestingly, over half of the breaks are going to wind farms. This is billions of dollars in lost school revenue going to an industry that employs few people. I read with interest how "green" wind farms are, but yet no one seems to realize their true costs to taxpayers and our educational system. It's massive, and adds the burden of additional taxes on those of us who own our homes. It's not the ratepayers that fund the cost of wind energy, it's taxpayers. And the biggest loser is public education in Texas.Barrett Reese, Yantis, TexasPaying for decent salariesRe: "Time to raise teachers' pay - Across-the-board bump is overdue, will help keep good teachers," by Dan Patrick, Jan. 29 Viewpoints.For most, the idea of an $5,000 across-the-board raise for teachers sounds like a move in the right direction, but this raise will not impact a lot of Texas teachers. Many school districts in the state already pay close to that over the Texas base pay. These teachers will see little, if any, raise. As a teacher of 28 years with a masters degree, I have experienced the angst of receiving a salary that is not competitive with other industry workers or others with as much higher education as I have. In effect, any city or state worker who has been on the job for awhile often has better pay and often better benefits. It is unjust that we choose to teach the leaders of tomorrow and are not paid on par with others who hold like educational attainments. So, while the raise seems earnest, it will not benefit many teachers if it is tacked on to the base pay scale. For all Texas teachers to benefit, the raise must be either higher or be given in a different way. Also, all educators I have talked to, as well as administrators, are leery of how it will be funded. One of the only possible ways is for more of the Texas Lottery money to be used for education, like it was originally intended.Alison Karper, GrahamDon't base pay on test scoresDoes it make sense to you that we should be rating teacher performance based on student national test scores? Somebody in Austin doesn't understand "cause and effect." The assumption is that if students don't do well on these tests, the teachers and schools must be doing something wrong. In reality, brainpower, with exception, determines how well students will do on these standardized tests. Students with high IQs normally have the inherent ability to learn quicker; store, process and recall information; understand; apply acquired knowledge; solve problems; and think abstractly. But teachers don't get to choose their students. Teachers must accept students assigned to their classrooms. Unfortunately, among these pupils are students who: don't want to be there, don't study, don't care, don't complete homework assignments, don't listen, don't participate in class, can't read, skip class, skip school, are unruly and have parents that are not involved in their education. Students, after all, will do only what they themselves have in mind to do. And further, students are generally unprepared for the classroom and often lack the skills necessary to succeed academically.Teachers should be evaluated based on performance factors in the classroom.Armando Gaytan, EnnisWe need prep schoolsIt's a fact of life that diversity-driven college admissions result in high dropout rates and low graduation rates for minority students. That's true no matter how much colleges turn their education into make-up for poor high-school preparation or how much supplemental tutoring they provide. Fortunately my white grandsons, Sam and Bob (not their real names), are working their way through college and preparing themselves at good-quality, low-cost community colleges without incurring high student loan debt. Sam is a mathematics major and wants to be a sports statistician; Bob is a computer science major. Both are in STEM majors, in which colleges say they need more minority-race students. Sam and Bob will fill the gap in university funding when they enroll and graduate from Texas public universities.The answer to the colleges' problem lies in a 19th-century method of "preparatory school" before college admission. High school was hopelessly inadequate. Colleges organized their prep schools as adjuncts, which "prepped" students to enter college. My grandfather taught in a prep school for decades before elevation to a college faculty. That's the answer to the minority student problem.Frederick W. Fraley, East Dallas  Continue reading...

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