Friday, June 17, 2011

What Would Lincoln Say?

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period." ---- Abraham Lincoln, March 9, 1832.

Time has past since Lincoln's pronouncement.  The Republican Party has transformed from the organization that wanted to end slavery to one that advocates a new kind of servitude --- economic slavery.  Following the Civil War the Republican Party embraced big business at the expense of labor.  The post-war enforcement of Civil Rights reverted to Jim Crowism and de-facto slavery.  Now we find that Republicans are engaging in a new form of class warfare ---- attacking education. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Texas.

The Texas House approved a measure to disenfranchise teachers and further reduce the quality of public education.  The legislation was passed on an 81-55 vote with 11 Republicans joining the 44 Democrats to oppose the bill.  The bill allows districts to place teachers and other professionals to be placed on unpaid furloughs for up to six non-instructional days; to reduce salary to save money; remove seniority protection so more experienced teachers could be fired to save money while keeping less experienced lower-paid teachers;  reduce times to notify teachers of contract cancellation from 45 days to 10 days; increase class above the 22 pupils in kindergarten through fourth grade; and deny teachers to the right to an independent hearing if they are laid off and appeal their dismissal.  

In the 2009-2010 school year, Texas led the nation with 1,237 school districts with 4.8 million students (2nd to California). Texas was 25th in student to teacher ratio, 31st in teacher salaries, and 36th in revenue per student.   (Source: Rankings & Estimates, NEA, December 2010)  Education Week gave Texas a C+ rating and placed them 13th.  Texas received a C- for K-12 achievement, a D+ for school finance, and an F for spending. 

The provisions passed by the Texas House will only drop the ratings. 

By failing to provide adequate education, Republican legislators are widening the gap between the wealthy and middle class, dismantling public education, and fostering economic serfdom.  Without proper education, children in Texas and other states operating under the Republican agenda will not be able to compete for high tech, well paying jobs.

Some Southern historians have viewed the Republican stand on slavery to be economic warfare by northern industrialists.  The actions of Republican legislators since the Civil War suggest that these historians may be right.  The war was more about depriving the South of economic power than ensuring freedom for slaves.  Did business-backed Republican interests pervert the noble ideas of freedom for their own political agenda?  What do you think?

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