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Have We Sold Out Our Children…Again?
Earlier this month I was tapped to create some protest art, art for signs that would appear at town hall meetings about the then-proposed State takeover of Houston Independent School District (HISD). I don’t have kids so it’s easy for me to not stay in touch with what’s going on in local public education, aside from the daily dealings my wife goes through (she’s an 11th grade English teacher in Pasadena ISD). But after drawing this and looking into the issue a bit further I’ve been saddened, once again, by the direction our state (and country) is headed with regards to public education.
The situation has been bad enough for so long; cutting of the arts and other programs, constant teaching to some bullshit standardized test, low pay (and therefore low retention) for the teachers that truly want to make a difference in their students' lives…It’s all very depressing. But it doesn’t end there. These anti-democratic fiends that have carved up this state to select their voters (gerrymandering) have decided they want to come for your schools too.
A State takeover of the school district may seem like a solid, no-nonsense way to “get things back on track” but you have to understand a few things:
Things are not off track to begin with. HISD is rated B+ on the state’s accountability rating. It ranks above Dallas ISD and is in the top half of TX districts.
State takeovers install their own leadership and disregard the elected school board reps. Maybe they’ll keep them on for “consulting purposes” but they are in no way beholden to them or the community at large.
State takeovers tend to pave the way for more charter schools, which are not the shiny new schools they want you to think they are. Charter schools are BUSINESS endeavors, run by business people, NOT Educators. Their first priority is PROFIT, not your child, and that profit comes from your tax dollars. They enroll the “best” students and disregard all the rest in order to appear successful and secure those dollars. Your child with special needs? They’re SOL when a charter school opens up after they shutter the old public school.
The State already has outrageous expectations for schools to meet. Well, outrageous in the sense that they don’t fund schools enough to meet those expectations. This is on purpose and it creates the illusion that schools are failing. This has been happening for decades; as the budgets for public schools shrink and shrink, programs that help students stay on track get cut, more kids begin to “fail” as a result, and then it looks like the school is failing, which results in more budgets getting cut. It’s a death spiral, and before you know it the school must close because it’s failing. But I assure you schools in more affluent neighborhoods aren’t facing this issue, it’s mostly schools in working-class black and brown neighborhoods.
And have you noticed other places around the country starting to relax child labor laws? Well, that’s not a coincidence. I’m sure that’ll probably happen here and just in time, too. When your special-needs high school student is rejected from the charter school and cannot enroll anywhere, hey, they have an opening at the plant, since they didn’t amount to anything, maybe they should just get to work now…. And the community stays poor and exploitable for work.
I’m just afraid I’m too late to talk about this issue. News reports are already saying this is going to happen, and today (4/20/23) is the deadline for applications for the new HISD board of managers. I’m not an expert on education nor am I an educator, but I am pretty keen on the many different ways the government and private businesses have screwed the people over the decades. Public education is vital to a healthy democracy. Not only that but public schools provide services to children such as free breakfast and lunch, and special-needs services. Privatizing schools would do away with all that because how does any of that make a profit?
What can we do now?
I’m not sure, but one of the best things we can do now is get/stay informed, because a lot of people have no idea what’s going on, let alone what rights and responsibilities are afforded to you as a parent with a child in public school. Get involved. And I don’t mean you have to march when it’s time, but getting involved can be something as simple as finding out what’s happening with your child’s school, and paying attention to issues that may be arising with the other parents. Get to know the teachers and administrators if you haven’t already (Regardless of the issues at hand this are good for community building at large). These campaigns that screw over the people thrive on a population that is ignorant of its rights and cannot come together. Also, did you know your student can opt-out of the STAAR test? I don’t know all the details but it is an option.
Whether it’s too late or not hopefully this info can spark some awareness within you. This type of shit never ends and we can be ready for the next atrocity.
As I said, I'm not an expert on education nor am I an expert at organizing and protesting. I just get outraged and I want to tell you about what I learned and what I think. Please chime in if you have additional clarification and tips.
Here’s the site for Community Voices for Public Education: https://www.houstoncvpe.org/
Here’s a podcast episode where they break it all down, Unconventional Journalist with Sam Oser (Spotify link):