Empower Texans (ET), a relatively new and aggressive pro-vouchers group, is continuing the far right’s campaign to undermine confidence in Texas public schools.
In May, ET president Michael Quinn Sullivan made statements focused on school spending and the ratio of teachers to non-teachers that are, at best, deliberately misleading. Example: Sullivan noted that there are almost as many non-teachers as teachers in Texas schools, suggesting that all of those non-teachers are “bureaucrats”:
“Do we really need one non-teacher for every teacher on the public school payroll? . . . Hey, we’ve got bureaucrats to play. What value do they bring to the classroom? Very little.”
The standard state report on school employment issued in March 2010 provides some inconvenient information for ET and other fact-challenged critics from the far right. Among the just over 300,000 state employees listed as non-teachers, less than four percent are administrators. The majority — which includes classroom aides, counselors, librarians, speech therapists and bus drivers — serve students directly on a daily basis. They are hardly “bureaucrats” — the right’s favorite epithet, usually said with a sneer, for many people who work in public service.
Politifact pronounced Sullivan’s assertions “Mostly True” but concluded that “Sullivan’s online call to action doesn’t do do justice to the state’s actual mix of school workers.”
We would call ET’s claim “Mainly Misleading,” a rating that reflects both the intent and most likely result of reading their selective presentation of data. To that point, one respondent to ET’s “analysis” said this on the group’s website: “It’s time to create education vouchers for all students. Give each child $7000 and refund the other $4000 (per student) to taxpayers. Go find your own private school, one which will not teach socialist and other degenerate values.”
Texas Freedom Network and most Texans — regardless of political persuasion — want our public schools to succeed, which is also essential to the future economy of our state. Perhaps therein lies the disconnect between the public interest and organizations, such as Empower Texans, that campaign to divert our tax dollars to support student vouchers, mismanaged charter schools and other unproven alternatives to traditional neighborhood schools. The way to create the best public schools is through civil, reality-based dialogue and constructive action involving all the stakeholders in education. We encourage steps in this direction by Empower Texans and others currently devoted to fostering confusion and division among our citizens.