A passage in the Bible states that when the leaders have no vision, the people perish. It is amazing to me that leaders of both parties are so caught up with partisanship that nobody has recognized the quickest and best long-term path to prosperity for America and its citizens lies in education. It is the one sure way to make us once again a leader in the world and to stop the serious decline of our middle class. Failure to have this vision will result in more and more phenomena such as “Occupy Wall Street.”
News reports tell us America is now sixth among world nations in numbers of citizens with college degrees when only a short time ago, we led the world. We hear every day the American workforce is not being trained for the jobs available. Politicians are refusing to make long-term investments in education. Our own Texas legislature continues to look for an easy fix to public education when there is no easy fix.
It appears to me what’s happening now is that too many politicians are concentrating on the next election and have given up all deep thought about the next generation. Warning signs are abundant that America is falling behind in world competition for economic dominance.
The cost of education is increasing, making it more and more difficult for middle-class Americans to obtain a college degree. A prime example is right here in Texas, where college tuition has tripled or quadrupled in the last few years. The Legislature, in its zeal to not be responsible for any new taxes, has allowed boards of regents to set college tuition at their pleasure. The result is that the doors of college admission are rapidly closing to middle-class Americans, mainly for financial reasons. To compound the problem, Texas has made severe cuts in its student loan program; at the national level, many grant programs have been done away with, curtailed, or otherwise made less available to would-be college entrants.
Public education appears to be shortchanged, not only in several states of the union but particularly in Texas. Our legislature, in spite of a constitutional mandate to the contrary, shorted public education by more than $4 billion. Conservative members of the Legislature continue to push for an expanded use of charter schools, many of which are nothing more than money factories for entrepreneurs. Charter schools drain away public funds from public education without meeting many of the same requirements of the law as faced by public schools. The fact public education in Texas is rapidly reaching the status of a Third-World system is evidenced by the numerous school districts throughout the state, and teachers therein, who have been reduced to begging for public assistance or donations to provide adequate materials for students. Many schools, because of the shortage at the state level, are without adequate books to provide each student with a textbook for his or her course.
Recent studies have demonstrated clearly the connection between education and the ability for citizens of this country to move upward in society. Education is tied to earning power, and earning power is directly related to upward mobility. For the first time in many generations, it is estimated children will not be able to live as well as their parents.
A favorite quote of mine is, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” A renewed dedication of our various governments, local, state and national, to assist our population to become better educated is essential for future generations to be successful. This should be the vision of our elected leaders.