Texas School Funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it’s reached epic proportions. If it wasn’t so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who’s betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and discovered that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if for the children hasn’t been the mantra that they’ve asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past. Once again, my name is firmly in the ‘nay’ category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we’ve given them (that’s doubled and tripled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been “earmarked for education”, only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an ‘indoctrination center’, where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less ‘oppressive’.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn’t even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here’s a solution you won’t get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn’t actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

…And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I’m betting on more.

Postscript

Having now put two children through school I can honestly say that the public schools do exceptionally well for what they have been tasked with doing. They do a far better job of educating all the children than most of the charter schools do with educating the children of parents interested enough in their children’s learning to take the time to put them in the charter instead of just sending them to the public school.

That is the big difference. If you have the time and the money you can find a school that produces a better education for less money. But the playing field is not level. Public schools have to educate all of the children, even the ones that don’t have parents that care and the ones that have learning disabilities. Charter schools fail in those categories because those are the groups that are hardest to educate and charters aren’t given enough money to educate those kinds of children. So they don’t try, and they aren’t required to do it anyway.

The problem with school remains the straightjacket that they have been confined to for too long. We would do much better if we made schooling something that can be done anywhere and any time. If we understood that children want to learn, they don’t have to be forced to learn.

Indirect Prohibition

I was sitting in the car with the teenager the other day, listening to the latest news reports concerning a local bar being threatened with a revocation of their liquor license. They were accused of forcing a patron to drink to excess. As far as I know, they didn’t hold the guy down, so I’m not sure where force comes into play.

Teenage question: “So why is the bar owner in trouble?”
Dad answer: “Because someone was stopped drunk, and he said he had been drinking at their bar.”
Teenage question: “But isn’t that what the customer went there for? Why should the bar owner care if his customers are drunk?”
Dad answer: “Well, the law says that the bar owner has to be responsible for not getting his customers drunk. If he thinks one of his customers is drunk, he has to stop serving him. It doesn’t stop there, either. He can’t let the drunk stay in the bar, because if the TABC comes in and checks the place out the bar can be cited just for having people in it that have drank too much alcohol. So he’s caught in a very bad position if he mistakenly serves someone too much.”
Teenage question: “Are they trying to make alcohol illegal?”
Dad answer: “No. They did that before and it didn’t work out.”

Teenage conclusion: “Well, they must be trying to make it impossible to drink without making it illegal then.”

Sharp as a tack, let me tell you. I hadn’t really thought about it that much, but it makes perfect sense. Smoking, as another example, is slowly trending that direction as well. Soon there will be alcohol and cigarettes available for purchase (if you can find them) but there won’t be anywhere you can indulge in them, except maybe inside your own house.

Fireworks are already that way, if you live in the city. You can buy them, but don’t even try to drive them back into town. It’s always struck me as ironic that the celebration of independence can’t be done in the traditional fashion anymore because the state has laid down the law and excluded everyone but themselves from being able to indulge. I imagine they’ll soon be keeping all the smokes and drinks for themselves as well. It’ll be a regular animal farm then.

The Clutter Bug

There has to be such a creature. I can’t think of any other explanation.

I’m pretty sure they came across the border in a banana shipment (or something like that) and that they come from at least three different regions. I’m pretty sure the place is called “Slobovnia” (what else would it be called?) The ones from Lower Slobovnia leave clutter in the floor areas. The ones from Upper Slobovnia leave clutter in the empty spaces above the floor.

Then there are the ones from Central Slobovnia, the most common kind (at least around here) because there is clutter all over the fucking place.

How do I know there are bugs responsible for the clutter? Well, I know it isn’t me, and when I ask the rest of the family “who made this mess?” No one did it.

It’s gotta be the bugs.

Now I just need to find a good exterminator that doesn’t laugh when I describe the problem.

Emotional Investment

Remember back in those early years (if you are under 40, you don’t qualify for this, BTW) how strong an emotional response you could evoke with the word ‘hate’. How someone who had crossed you (even your best friend) could become the most loathsome creature on the planet, so loathsome that it blinded you, so powerful that you could feel the pressure to lash out at anything in your path? No? Funny, neither did I, until today.

I crossed the teenager today. During a discussion, I suggested in an overly loud voice that perhaps thinking about the situation at hand was what was needed, rather than attempting to make something work that wasn’t going to. What followed was a “I hate you”, and a steadfast insistence that all parents wish to make their (teenage) children suffer. No amount of reason (yeah, funny. Reasoning with a child, right? Sometimes I kill even myself) made the slightest dent. I was being unfair, and being unfair is an unforgivable sin. The hated one was not going to be given an inch of respite, no matter how many hours the argument drug out too.

Fine. As an ‘old guy’, I have a emotional investment cap that I set for myself. At some point I just have to say “do I really care that much about X?” (‘X’ being whatever the child, or whoever, is raging about at the moment) If the answer is ‘no’, I don’t make the investment in working up a decent rant, and I walk away none the worse and not feeling any regrets. In the ever more infrequent instances that the answer is ‘yes’, then I have to make a stand.

So here it is. It’s ‘not’ unfair to expect teenagers to pull their weight and do household chores; and I really ‘hate’ it when someone thinks they are exempt from doing them, whether they get paid or not.

Yes, I know. A radical stand, and a serious emotional investment in working up such a lengthy rant as well. Sometimes you just have to draw the line.

A Pumpkin Child

7 years ago today, I was awoken early on a Saturday morning, at about 8 (that’s early for me) To the sound of my wife crying “My water broke!”

It’s funny looking back on it now. Begging friends to watch our 7 year old daughter (but Mom! what about Halloween?!) Rushing to the hospital in a mad panic. Worrying that the baby would be too early. The disgusted look on the Neonatal doctor’s face when there wasn’t anything for him to do after all. The argument between the delivering doctor and the Neonatal specialist on just how early our son was (“He’s not 6 weeks early!” “Yes, he is!”) The thankfulness on both his mother’s and my part that there wasn’t anything for the specialist to do.

The Wife being bound and determined to get out of that hospital as soon as she could walk again. It all tickles me to this day.

This one’s for you son (and you too Hun) Happy Birthday.