Perry decides… rightly

Here is an op-ed piece I wrote for the Daily Cougar last week.  I had titled it “Perry right to sit this race out”, thinking I’d go ahead and put my “op” right in the headline. But they changed it.  Sometimes I think the editors just change stuff so they can feel like they are earning their money. Do they get paid?

Perry decides to sit this race out

By Jared Luck

Published: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In an election year, it can be difficult to tell when an incumbent makes a decision strictly motivated by desire to serve his constituency or when they act with an eye to possible effects on the polls.

In Gov. Rick Perry’s case, he always seems to be campaigning.

Up for re-election in November, Perry announced last Tuesday that Texas would not submit an application to be considered for up to $700 million of federal stimulus money through the U.S. Department of Education’s new Race to the Top program.

The move is clearly intended to appeal to conservative Texans who are fed up with federal government spending and what they see as attempts to spread Big Brother’s reach. As Perry put it, the program “smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools.”

This was not the first time Perry publicly clashed with the federal government. In April 2009, at an anti-tax tea party, his suggestion that Texas should secede from the U.S. was reported across the country.

The notion of secession is ludicrous, but Perry’s goal was to please his audience, which he did. As a staunchly red state, the move against accepting federal aid will probably be another popular move, but for good reason this time.

While the stimulus money might enable some reforms at schools around the state, once the funding ceases in four years, any programs begun under Race to the Top will likely become the financial responsibility of local communities.

But the most inconvenient truth of the matter is that throwing money at public education problems won’t solve anything.

Perry is right to suspect that changing laws to qualify for stimulus funds would force Texas down a slippery slope where parents and teachers have diminishing power to determine how and what their children are taught.

There is no basis to thinking that adoption of a national curriculum would make Texas schoolchildren any smarter or better prepared than a state-determined curriculum. The only reasoning behind a change would be uniformity — a goal that would do more to harm education than promote it.

However, one provision of the Race to the Top program should be adopted by Texas: using students’ test scores in their teachers’ evaluations.

Thursday, the HISD board voted in favor of allowing schools to fire teachers if their students’ standardized test scores are continually low. Under the policy, teachers will be evaluated on three to four years of data, giving them sufficient time to improve on one or two years of poor student test scores.

This should provide a system to treat the disease, not just the symptoms.

Despite debate regarding how accurately standardized tests measure a student’s knowledge, they should be the basis for evaluating teacher performance. It is perfectly acceptable for teachers to be held accountable for their students’ progress, and teachers who can’t perform at an acceptable level should be terminated; it’s that simple.

That is how the rest of the professional world operates, and the teaching field should be no exception. While using these tests to measure a teacher’s effectiveness is a good idea, Texas does not need to turn over the reins of its education system to the federal government to institute such a policy.

As Perry put it, “If Washington were truly concerned about funding education with solutions that match local challenges, they would make the money available to states with no strings attached.”

Well said, governor.

What They Really Mean #1

This will be the first entry in a series I’m going to call “What They Really Mean.”  Like the title suggests, this will be a quick guide to what people really mean when they use a particular phrase. Kicking things off, today’s phrase is…

“free spirit”.

I’ve never witnessed anyone telling someone else to their face that they are a free spirit. This is because when people say “Oh, she’s such a free spirit”, they really mean “She wears bright orange knee-high socks and chases butterflies at age 35. She creeps the rest of us out.”

This has been What They Really Mean.

The drive-time blues

This is really bad; I know it and I’ll just admit it from the get-go.  But I get annoyed when the digital traffic signs on the freeway are preempted by the police or whoever is at the controls for those things, so that instead of displaying what drive time I can expect, it flashes a message saying a child has been kidnapped and the make and model of the kid’s napper.

Is this what it’s come to? Have I become so jaded and impatient by Houston traffic that I would rather see information that I will soon find out anyway more than an alert that could mean the difference between life and death for a defenseless youngster?

Still… is equal coverage too much to ask? Flash the kid thing, then flash the drive time. Everybody wins.

It’s your world, I’m just bloggin’ in it

Hi. My name is Jared Luck; what’s yours? I hope we can be friends- Internet friends, I mean, not real friends.

I am a print journalism student at the University of Houston. I am a disillusioned Republican, and I’m toying with becoming an anarchist, which is really not as bad as it sounds.  I am also a Christian, a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a friend, a fisherman, a hunter, a trombonist, a pessimist, a volleyball player (see me owning my friend Carl, above), and some things I’ve been called which I won’t get into here.

This blog will consist of things which interest me, including but not limited to: 1) financial news 2) religion stuff 3) stuff the government did that I don’t like 4) war news 5) things that make me laugh 6) movie stuff. If none of that interests you, hey, get your own blog, they’re not expensive.

So welcome.  And wipe your feet before you come in.