Superintendent Sends Alamo-like Letter
February 20, 2011 9:25 PM   Subscribe

The superintendent of tiny Perrin-Whitt school district in Texas recently sent this letter to state legislators who are threatening to slash funding for public schools. Modeled after the famous letter from the Alamo by William Barret Travis, Superintendent Kuhn appeals to Texas legislators to make education a priority.
posted by tamitang (25 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No new taxes, Bush Sr. said. Then he lost the presidency by raising taxes. The Republicans learned.

Today, they might learn again. No new taxes — but will you steal the children's lunch-money?
posted by curuinor at 9:31 PM on February 20, 2011

They will destroy the education system, they will take away health care from those that can't pay for it, they will take food from the mouths of children, they will let the homeless freeze, they will turn their backs on the suffering......but, the tide always turns.
posted by tomswift at 9:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Someday, the rich will learn that education and social welfare programs really ought be renamed: bloody revolution prevention.
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:41 PM on February 20, 2011 [48 favorites]

The modern Republican party is a theocracy unto itself. By that I mean that it doesn't need Christianity. That helps, of course, but as we've discussed ad nauseum the beliefs and priorities of the religious right are orthogonal or directly contrary to actual Christianity anyway. What I mean is that the GOP has succeeded in turning their platform into a religion.

One plank of that is that any non-military spending is anathema.

Another is that education is a liberal ploy to pull people away from conservative values.

So this is just win-win for them, and I'm angrier than I thought possible at the end of a very long day.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:50 PM on February 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

Why did I read myself this letter in Hank Hill's voice?

Anyways, taxes certainly need to go up. I don't know how much but the constant giveaways to corporations need to stop - they impact society in the same way people do, and they need to pay their share just like you and I pay income taxes.
posted by SirOmega at 10:05 PM on February 20, 2011

Presumably this letter will be every bit as effective as that of Lt. Col Travis?
posted by speug at 10:17 PM on February 20, 2011

Testing for high school students will increase with STAAR tests from the current 25 days of testing to 45 out of the 180 days that they attend school each year.

This implies that 1 out of every 4 days for high school students will be taken up by testing. Is that typical? Even 25 days seems outrageously high. The high school here takes up 2, maybe 3 days for state testing, and that's only every few grade levels.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:25 PM on February 20, 2011

Testing (and attaching funding to those test results) has been steadily destroying education. If one presumes the goal of the Texas Republicans is to eradicate public education entirely, then it makes sense that they're increasing the number of days that the kids are tested.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:59 PM on February 20, 2011

Poorly educated people are easier to control.
posted by thorny at 11:41 PM on February 20, 2011

Poorly educated people are easier to manipulate, especially.
posted by crapmatic at 12:17 AM on February 21, 2011

Poorly educated people have less stake in the status quo, and are hungrier.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:25 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Reading this letter, having grown up in a mid-90s Texas, I'm all the more grateful that by the grace of god, middle-classedness, and dedicated parents, I've come through the gauntlet that is modern education relatively unscathed; that I've dodged the bullets I watched so many peers succumb to; that now, now that I've come through it all and stand in this great world of ours under the impossible heaviness of banal middle-class expectation to earn, all I want to do is go and work to ensure that every young person I can help is helped, that they are all taught and better yet: educated.

Fuck legislators who think otherwise. How do they think they managed to be so lucky as to scratch their lofty perches with their money-stained talons? How? It just pisses me off to watch a great state, a great country, a great tradition squandered because we don't want to pay for it. I'm inspired by this man's fortitude in the face of indomitable political gales and tides; simultaneously, I'm appalled that a public servant has to fall upon treacle-leaden state-level-patriotic sentiment to even have his pleas for the general good and success of his community heard. Fuck this.

It just all makes me so angry.
posted by thack3r at 1:30 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sadly, the heroes of the Alamo were all killed. Emulating them may not be the best strategy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:41 AM on February 21, 2011

The letter is cute, but... last year, this school district was wealthy enough that it fell under the "Robin Hood" clause. We pay for schools with property tax, and wealthier areas must give money to less well-off areas. That happened to this school district -- they had more money than most especially considering the very small number of students in this area.

Directly after that, the people of this community passed a bond measure, giving the school district $4 million to "adding a new track and weight room, making improvements to the agricultural barn, adding a pre-kindergarten classroom, adding parking lots, expanding the administrative offices, installing additional fencing, replacing aging football field lighting and resurfacing the playground" and also buy 3 school buses, a cargo trailer, and a livestock trailer.

Academically, the school district's test scores are on an upward trend. A few years ago, they were Academically Acceptable. They have now improved to Recognized.

So it's not quite as dire as the Alamo, although the letter is getting quite a bit of attention because it's novel.
posted by Houstonian at 4:10 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance produced for Republicans if the Left in Texas adopted all the language of the Texas Revolution. If there's one thing that is taught in Texas schools, it's Texas history and pride.

I can just see lots of heads exploding.
posted by threeturtles at 4:53 AM on February 21, 2011

Lovely how education in America has gone from a privilege to a right to an afterthought. Sure glad we fought so long and hard for it just to see learning turned into something to be embarrassed about rather than celebrated. The right seems to think we should celebrate ignorance. And they are rewarded for this, repeatedly. Makes me sick.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:56 AM on February 21, 2011

It's Texas. This problem, like all problems, can be solved by letting students carry concealed weapons.
posted by tommasz at 6:41 AM on February 21, 2011

this school district was wealthy enough that it fell under the "Robin Hood" clause

While I don't debate that Perrin-Whitt is in good shape (and good on them for wanting to continue their academic upswing) being a Robin Hood funder doesn't mean much. HISD, the biggest urban district in the state, is pretty regularly a Robin Hood donor, IIRC, and if that's not a sign of something wrong I don't know what is. I don't think we should necessarily kick a rural ISD for upgrading its ag facilities, like barns and livestock trailers either. Texas schools are all badly funded; saying they should all suffer so Dan Patrick can keep his property taxes low is not a value statement I can get behind. And yes, these guys have as much chance of succeeding in this biennium with these legislators as the holdouts at the Alamo did, but that doesn't make it right.

We trained people badly in Texas in the yellow-dog Democratic years. People thought they could get consensus inside a single party and that voting inside that party would ensure you got a piece of the pie. When the Republicans took over and all the conservative Ds switched to Rs to keep their hands in the trough, they didn't realize that the Rs had a serious ideological drive to dismantle what little government we have in Texas. Now people are figuring out after 20 years of voting for Rick Perry and his friends that votes have consequences. And they'll do anything they can about it, except vote for a Democrat in 2012.
posted by immlass at 6:53 AM on February 21, 2011

I don't fault them for doing well academically, and I don't fault an agricultural area for emphasizing ag education in their schools. I don't even argue that Texas schools are appropriately funded. And, I think the superintendent is doing the right thing -- representing his school district, asking for money, gaining attention to their issues, and so on, is part of it.

But in an area where the school district is the largest employer by far (only a few businesses, and I think the school is the only organization with more than 4 employees), where the student to teacher ratio in elementary (grades pre-K to 6) is 11:1, the ratio in high school (grades 7-12) is 15:1 (in a state that, I believe, allows up to 20:1), the scores are doing well, and bonds are passed for enhancing the infrastructure, then I think it's not an Alamo-level emergency. Perhaps needed, but they will not collapse without more money.

My sister is a teacher in Texas. She works in a school district that is expanding, even with lower tax receipts for the last few years. They are not terribly under-funded -- the teachers are paid well ($44,250 to $63,549 for teachers with a Bachelor's degree) compared to their peers at other schools, all the latest technology is in place, the student:teacher ratio is good, and new buildings are going up.

There are several neighboring school districts that are not doing as well... and I would argue that they are at an Alamo-level emergency, with teachers using bullhorns, gangs roaming the halls, fights breaking out everywhere, buildings falling apart, extraordinary drop-out rates, very low test scores. By comparison, the superintendent's letter seems like a silly exaggeration, because Perrin-Whitt just doesn't seem to be at that level. The letter should have come from one of the superintendents of these desparate schools, and I wonder why it didn't. Wait, I do know... because they are elected, and raising taxes is not a popular stance within their community.

As a citizen who must work with these kids when they enter the workforce in a few short years, and who will benefit if/when they become productive, tax-paying citizens themselves, I would prefer that we first focus on improving the worst of the lot.
posted by Houstonian at 7:28 AM on February 21, 2011

I would prefer that we first focus on improving the worst of the lot.

I don't see how this means we have to strip Perrin-Whitt of everything it has. How about we actually fund the entire damn public school system so people can get in the trenches in those districts without destroying the districts that are good? "Other districts have it worse, so let's fuck up this one too" isn't the right answer unless you just can't stand paying taxes at all.

The dilemma is real in that there's apparently no prying Rick Perry's ass out of the Governor's Mansion and his cronies out of a statehouse majority, but it does not have to be this way, and I refuse to accept any framing that says kids that get a decent education with a few extras in public schools are inherently robbing others. There is money for everybody. Republicans are just too greedy for votes and stingy with money to make it happen.
posted by immlass at 8:27 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Education a priority? In texas?

Good luck with that. Texas has one of the worst education systems in the country.
posted by delmoi at 1:05 PM on February 21, 2011

According to Education Week, Texas ranked 14th in the nation (pdf). Not great, but not below the mid-point at least. Maryland was #1. Nevada was #50. Texas did receive excellent rating for assessment, and low ratings for finance.
posted by Houstonian at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I met this guy about 2 months ago. Didn't seem this clever. I bought a bunch of football equipment from the school to donate to our youth league.
That school was in the middle of nowhere. I should have known something was up when I pulled up and he was out in a field drawing a line in the sand over and over.
posted by Senator at 7:21 PM on February 21, 2011

According to Education Week, Texas ranked 14th in the nation

That seems to be a synthetic score based on various policy decisions, using a methodology they don't seem to even explain. They did rank Texas 39th in "chance for success" though.

Texas ranked 43rd in graduation rates and 47th in SAT/ACT scores. And 41st in the number of students going to college after graduating (combed with low graduation rates, of course)
posted by delmoi at 7:25 PM on February 21, 2011

Another is that education is a liberal ploy to pull people away from conservative values.

To be fair, except for the "liberal ploy", they are right.
posted by DU at 5:31 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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