Learning we reap what we sow

There was once a farmer who decided he would save money, so instead of buying the full sack of seed corn, he bought only two-thirds of the amount he had purchased the year before. After sowing the seeds on his field, he eventually harvested the crop. To his great surprise, the crop had only yielded two-thirds of the bounty of the season before.

The farmer is much like some of our elected leaders who will express shock, surprise and dismay at the recent reports that test results show only 34 percent of our statewide ninth graders can show proficiency in writing. Even worse, only 41 percent of our ninth graders are proficient in English. Why should we be surprised? Our state legislature, under statewide leadership, has caused layoffs of more than 15,000 teachers in the state, and mandated larger classes and the end of many programs calculated to enhance learning.

Classroom size does, in fact, make a difference. Despite a bogus study or two touted by Mitt Romney, the multitude of other experts have demonstrated time and time again, by monitored results, that class size of 15:1 in the lower three grades can produce spectacular results.Eliminating more than 15,000 teaching spots will not help lure out the best and brightest to the teaching profession when they are so critically needed for America to compete in the worldwide arena.

The first retort of conservatives to information such as enumerated above is that, “You can’t throw money at education and fix it.” I certainly agree. The flip side of that coin, however, is you can’t fix and create a wonderful system of education without spending an adequate amount of money.

The state of Texas could better spend its time through the Legislature and the State Board of Education by concentrating on evaluation of the efficiency of school districts — whether they are top heavy in administration with overblown and overpaid superintendents and assistant superintendents and their fellow travelers. An audit of charter schools funded by tax money should inquire intently on whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth in improved education in these facilities, or whether they are simply gold mines for those who create these private entities.

Far-right wingers who express such great concern for only having English spoken in the state of Texas would be far better off, as would the state, if they were more concerned about whether or not their own children and the children of Texas parents are proficient in our dominant language — English.

While I suspect the electronic age of texting and tweeting is somewhat responsible for our young Texans lagging in communication skills of writing and using English, it still needs to be addressed through our school system.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety. His e-mail is cap1934 [at] aol [dot] com.

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