Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's Important For Children In Texas? Not Education.

While many states have been struggling to balance their budgets, one of the main states in the "no tax increases" Tea Party inspired legislatures has been Texas. Texas uses a 2-year budget system, and lawmakers have been struggling to balance a budget shortfall. What makes it more "difficult" for them is that the Republicans all ran on a promise not to raise state taxes under any circumstances. The result? An incredibly large cut to education:

The Senate budget cuts far less than the House plan. But the Senate budget still cuts public education by more than $5 billion and does not cover the cost of about 170,000 more school children, Villarreal said. The Senate budget still cuts higher education by some $2 billion, which will result in higher college tuition, he said.

But while Texas schools face the loss of thousands of teachers, and increased classroom size, it's apparent what the real priority in Texas is: Football.

That's right. In a recession, in an era when schools around the country are cutting sports programs, this school is building a stadium.
A price of $59.6 million might sound like a lot of money for Allen's new stadium, set to open in 2012. But this is Texas, and Allen won the state 5A-I title in 2008. Construction costs were approved Monday by the Allen school board. The stadium will seat 18,000, including 5,000 reserved seats. That ties it for the fifth-largest high school stadium in the state. Allen's current stadium, built in 1976, has 7,000 seats. In recent years, temporary bleachers for 7,000 additional seats have been rented at a cost of $225,000 a year.

"That's Texas for you," said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C., education think tank. "This is, of course, ridiculous in a period of tight money, and the explanation will be that this is dedicated money and can't be spent on other things. … But I'm not a bit surprised. If it were Indiana, it would be a basketball arena.
The people of Allen had every right to decide to build a football stadium, and yes, they did vote overwhelmingly on a bond act to fund it. From many accounts, it's not the only place in Texas that's like that. But, what the question really is, is why people are placing sports in schools over the schools themselves? They're apparently perfectly willing to shell out money to watch their children play sports, but not to pay for educating them.

That is going to eventually move Texas into a "non-competitive" status. I played sports in high school, and yes, they're a part of my fond memories. But, in the long run, it's just a memory. The math, English, science, and other classes were what really mattered. No one ever asked me if I played high school football on a job application.

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