Data, data, every where,
And all the minds did shrink;
Data, data, every where,
Nor any bit to think.
Adapted from Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The objectives of the Texas Education Code do not include a single requirement for students to become exemplary athletes or to participate in competitive sports or other UIL programs, yet hundreds of millions of dollars are extracted annually from Texas taxpayers to support these activities and their infrastructure. What is most egregious is the fact that parents who pay those taxes must subject their children to failing educational systems in order for their student to continue to participate in competitive UIL programs.
How is Texas failing Texas students and families? Texas public schools are not even meeting the most basic objective of preparing students to be thoughtful, active citizens, as specified in Objective 5 of the Texas Education Code:
Educators will prepare students to be thoughtful, active citizens who have an appreciation for the basic values of our state and national heritage and who can understand and productively function in a free enterprise society.
Texas Education Code, Title 2, Subtitle A, Chapter 4. Sec. 4.001 (b) Objective 5
When less that 20%1 of the registered voters under the age of 25 voted in the 2016 primaries, and less than 1% of the registered voters 25 years of age and under voted in the 2016 school board and bond elections, how can superintendents and school board members claim they are even close to meeting the most basic objective of preparing students to be thoughtful, active citizens as specified in the Texas Education Code?
Since our public schools are falling short even in this most fundamental metric2, how can the Texas Legislature deny parents the right to withdraw their children from that failing system and educate them at home without forfeiting their child’s right to compete in UIL programs for which their tax dollars are paying, especially when those programs may be their only option for organized, competitive activities?
Or perhaps a better question is, do TASA, TASB, THSCA, TSTA, TRST and other special interests truly have the best interests of students and their families in mind?
1 Analysis of 25 and under demographic (born Jan. 1, 1991 or later) for a sampling of Texas counties:
Public High Schools: 23
Colleges/Universities: U. North Texas, Texas Women’s
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary: 7,822 of 43,611 (as of the date of the Primary) or 17.9%
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary runoff: 206 of 47,148 (as of date of May 24th Runoff or less than 1/3 of 1.0% (statistically zero)
November Presidential 2016: 27,626 of 60,169 (as of the date of the Nov. 8, 2016 election) or of 45.9%
May 7, 2016 Joint General, Special, and Bond Election Voters (school board and city council elections):
752 of 46,580 (as of May 7th, 2016) or 1.6%
Public High Schools: 60
Colleges/Universities: TCU, Texas Wesleyan, University of Texas-Arlington, UNT Health Science Center, Tarrant County Junior College, TAMU Law School, Remington College
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary: 15,756 of 95,325 (as of the date of the Primary) or 16.53%
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary runoff: 613 of 103,149 eligible
voters (as of May 24 runoff) or .59 of 1.0% (statistically zero)
November Presidential 2016: 53,958 or 42.7% of 126,355 (as of the date of the Nov. 8, 2016 election)
May 7, 2016 Joint General, Special, and Bond Election Voters (school board and city council elections): 864 of 101,936 or .85 of 1.0%
Public High Schools: 15
Colleges/Universities: Southwestern, Texas State (branch), Austin Community College, East Williamson County Higher Education Center (EWCHEC)
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary: 4,580 of 23,857 (as of the date of the Primary) or 19.9%
Number of 25 and under eligible registered voters who voted in primary runoff: 136 of 26,120 eligible voters (as of May 24 runoff) or 1/2 of 1.0% (statistically zero);
Note: at least 30% of the above 136 voters were known personally to be privately homeschooled.
November Presidential 2016: 13,259 or 40.2% of 32,992 (as of the date of the Nov. 8, 2016 election)
May 7, 2016 Joint General, Special, and Bond Election Voters (school board and city council elections): 200 or less than 3/4 of 1.0%
If the concern is then how these under 25 year olds would vote, then that concern underscores the utter failure of a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy in preparing students to be …”thoughtful, active citizens…”. It would almost appear the educational systems, in general, are intentionally dumbing down the citizenry they depend upon to employ them.
It is statistically impossible for every student to be in the top 10% of the class. It is statistically impossible for every student to be a National Merit Scholar (top 1/2 of 1% who take PSAT). However, there is no excuse for 99% of the students not to be prepared to be thoughtful, active citizens, before they graduate from high school.
During the height of the Vietnam conflict, 18 year olds were marching in the streets for the right to vote. On July 5, 1971, just eight years before the creation of the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) by Carter, President Nixon signed the certification of the 26th Amendment giving 18 year olds the right to vote, of which ~50% did so in 1972. Yet, over 45 years and trillions of dollars later, the vast majority, even after an additional seven years of “maturing” (until 25 years of age) cannot even find their way to a voting booth, in a hotly contested presidential primary in both dominant political parties, and subsequently, in a volatile presidential election. In the November 2016 Presidential Election, less than 42% of registered Texas voters under 25 years of age voted.
2The 2014 Population Characteristics report titled Young-Adult Voting: An Analysis of Presidential Elections, 1964–20121 by Thom File stated:
America’s youngest voters have moved towards less engagement over time, as 18- through 24-year-olds’ voting rates dropped from 50.9 percent in 1964 to 38.0 percent in 2012.
This report limited the majority of the analysis to presidential elections between 1996 and 2012. However, it did include a graph indicating that the voting rate (nationwide) for the 18-24 year old demographic in the 1972 presidential election was approximately 50%.
In the 2012 November elections, Texas ranked 48th in the percentage of registered 18-24 voters who voted.
Voter turnout for this demographic is especially low given the ease of registering to vote, early voting time period, early voting locations, provisional voting, and ubiquitous access to online information regarding voting.
3How many of the following questions should the average 18 year old registered voter in Texas be able to answer?
- What is the purpose of education?
- How would you describe an educated person?
- What is a bond election?
- Who calls bond elections?
- When are bond elections held?
- Who can vote in a bond election?
- What is the purpose of a bond election?
- Who authorizes the issue of bonds?
- Who buys bonds?
- How are bonds repaid?
- How do bond sales affect property tax rates?
- What is a property tax rate?
- What is an effective property tax rate?
- What is the property tax rate based upon?
- Who establishes the appraised value of taxable real estate?
- Who pays property taxes?
- What percentage of monthly property taxes paid by your parent(s)/guardian is for public debt service?
- How do renters pay property taxes?
- What is the impact of property taxes on retailers? How do they pass on their costs?
- Who owns the debt (bonds) which must be repaid with property taxes?
- What are the consequences for failure to pay property taxes?
- What are the M&O and I&S portions of budgets?
- If given a choice between giving up a cellular data plan (or even a smartphone altogether) or voting for a bond proposal that would increase your parent’s property taxes (or rent) on a pro-rated monthly amount equal to the amount of that cellular data plan, what would you choose?