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Rick Perry Gets a D on Education Policy

By Jeremy Benedik Posted: 09/05/2011
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Courtesy of Gage Skidmore | Flickr
Rick Perry may not have been the best student around, but all the education he received came from deep in the heart of Texas.

It was in the Lone Star State that Perry received a public elementary and high school education. He then went on to graduate from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences and a 2.5 GPA. Of all people, Perry seems like the perfect candidate to be a strong proponent of Texas’ education system.

The way Perry has treated Texas education during his tenure as governor leads one to think he may still be bitter about the D’s he received in his Shakespeare, Meat Science or Feeds & Feeding courses, just to name a few.

In this past spring’s session of the Texas legislature, Perry pushed for and received a $4 billion cut to the state’s education budget over the next two years. He also threatened a veto on a bill that planned to use the rainy day fund on enrollment growth in schools. This comes at a time when between 70,000 and 80,000 new students are introduced to the Texas school system every year.

Texas is now the 47th state in amount paid for an individual student’s education.

Student growth and budget cuts have led to new students entering schools that are laying off countless teachers to make ends meet. This creates an overly crowded classroom managed by an ever-shrinking pool of teachers, already stretched too thin for any real learning to take place.

According to numbers former First Lady Barbara Bush cited in an editorial in The Houston Chronicle, Texas is 36th in high school graduation rates, 49th in verbal test scores, 47th in literacy and 46th for average math SAT performances. Yet, Perry still has the audacity to claim, “Texas knows how to best educate our students.” Perry refused to apply for Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, shutting off federal funding that the state’s failing schools desperately need.

Texas’ poor performance is not solely due to underfunding. Curriculum, teachers and parental involvement all play a role in a child’s education, so state and local governments shouldn’t receive all the blame.

At the same time, not being able to have any teacher interaction in classes of more than 30 students, having inadequate supplies and schools trying to save every penny, play just as significant a role.

Perry's policies of neglecting education and providing as little funding as possible exhibit a complete disregard for the importance of educating Texas' youth.

As Perry makes a bid for the White House, education on a national scale still fails to fall under what he thinks is a national issue. But don't take my word for it. Just go to his campaign website.

Rick Perry is such a state's rights, anti-taxes politician that his treatment of education on the national level will likely constitute even more severe neglect. Considering his record as governor, who's to say that he won't put federal education money on the chopping block at the first available opportunity. After all, the elimination of the evil Department of Education has been a conservative campaign issue for years.

In a nation that fell below average on international student assessment programs in 2003 and 2006, this is not a time for even more spending cuts to education. As President Obama pointed out to Congress, cutting education funding may save a few bucks, but it would sell the country's economic future short. In a globalized economy, knowledge is power. If Rick Perry were to replicate his results on the nation, power is something we would be hemorrhaging.

While the potential that Rick Perry has in fixing the nation's unemployment and economics (did I mention the D in principles of economics?) is still up for debate, the effect he would have on the education system of the nation is a much more decidedly foreboding outlook for the nation's children.

Multimedia Editor Jeremy Benedik is a College junior from Georgetown, Texas.

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