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EDITORIALS Deschooling Society THE HOUSE COMMITTEE on Public Education got one thing right in its 672page rewrite of the education code. In Sec. 37.121 of the subchapter on penal provisions, “Fraternities, Sororities, Secret Societies and Gangs” are finally brought into one category. \(Section 37.121 is followed by sections on possession of intoxicants on public school grounds, disruptive activities argues a psychology professor at the University of Texas, very similar to gangs. The difference is wealth and class, but the behavior, informed by the same needs, is the same. The $12,000 jeep is a prosaic and artless low rider, initiation rites equally brutal and demeaning; frats, this psychologist says, are gangs for children of privilege. Good to have that codifiedalmost. Because the bill, which reported out of committee last week, still has to be approved by the full House, where debate is scheduled for May 4-5and then reconciled with the Senate bill. Not all of the House version is insightful and enlightened as section 37.121 and several important provisions in the bill were written for those children who will proceed from the state’s 1,055 independent school districts to the sorority and fraternity houses that surround state universities. Home-rule districts and a detachment provision that would allow sub-division and secession from existing school districts are two issues that could allow enclaves of wealth and privilege to go their own way. And although the voucher system that would move money and students from public to sectarian schools is not included in the House version of the bill, Arlington Republican Kent Grusendorfthe ed. committee’s bad cop, whose chronically angry disposition made libertarian Republican Ric Williamson look like an even better good cophas promised a floor amendment on the issue. With the exception of Ric Williamson’s scheme to privatize the teachers’ pension system, there are few new items in the public education agenda. \(And three sessions from now, Williamson’s privatization scheme will be a sanctioned and openly dehome-rule districts in the crude calculus of former Dallas-area Representative Sam Johnson, who has left the State House to join the Republican Congressional delegation. “We’ll give you your money if you’ll give us local control,” Johnson said from the back mike of the House during one of the countless debates of the court-ordered mandate to provide equity in funding for all of the state’s school children. The Legislature, as some see it, has delivered the money and it’s poised to deliver on the other variable in Sam Johnson’s equation. READING OF the House bill’s home le provisions suggest that about all that that will be required of these districts is that they contribute to the Texas Teacher Retirement System and adhere to statewide student admission policies. That’s something of an overstatement, but this isn’t: Home rule districts will be freed from the 22:1 pupil-to-teacher ratio that was the fundamental reform established by House Bill 72 in 1984. The elimination of that requirement will allow for some creative use of faculty in wealthy school districts, where many middle-class students are grounded in the three Rs by the time they enroll in first grade. But it will set education back in cash-strapped districts, where home-rule will legalize larger class sizeand, of course, smaller faculties and therefore lower payrolls. So for students in need of more time with a teacher, a petition signed by 5 percent of a district’s voters, followed by a two-thirds vote of the board and an election, can set education back 11 years By the year 2000, for those kids that 11 years will seem like an eternity. Detachment or secession is another mechanism that can only serve to segregate kids who drive jeeps from kids who drive low riders. Ten percent of the voters of any subdistrict that includes at least nine square miles can compel a school board to hold a detachment election Although the creation of a new district cannot leave the existing district with lower taxable per-pupil wealth than it had before the detachment, and can Continued from p. 3 collapse and the virtual ending of national sovereignty, little more than a year after the installation of NAFTA, is disconnected from that landmark event. Blaming the collapse on an overvalued currency is absurd; this was what nurtured the boom that the apologists were lauding and crediting to NAFTA up to the moment of truth. And where was “the market,” supposedly adept at using readily available information to get prices right or adjust capital flows ratio not create a new district with higher perpupil wealth, those problems might be resolved by leaving the central business district to the existing district and establishing a new district whose residential property and malls provide sufficient \(but not too whose less-affluent minority communities lie east of one north-south thoroughfare, white, affluent West Austin suddenly looks like West Austin ISD. Sufficiently divided, we all become adversaries and decentralization begins to look suspiciously like dismantling of the state’s public schools. Which is exactly where the voucher program leads. Those who believe that Kent Grusendorf, a perennial leader of the conservative faction that opposed equity funding for poor schools, is an advocate of poor inner-city kids probably also believe that schoolteachers in Texas have collective bargaining rights. The Senate version of the new education code includes what is modestly described as a pilot program. More than 300,000 low-income students will be eligible for vouchers by which they will move 80 percent of state and local per-student funding from the public schools they leave to the private schools they enter. One or two sessions from now, the program will be expanded to the middle-class kids whom God intended to have vouchers. House Public Education Committee Chair Paul Sadler kept the voucher provision out of the House bill, but Grusendorf is convinced that there is sufficient support to change that on the floor . Floor amendments can make this bill better or worsebut probably not good. If it appears that the state’s system of public education is being dismantled, maybe that’s because some are determined to dismantle it. And it includes much of the Governor’s agenda, so he is waiting to sign it. L.D. nally? Having rationalized the looting of Mexico by a domestic and expatriate elite, and told us that the benefits were going to flow pretty soon to the Mexican masses, the Dornbusches are now supporting the bailout of investors and the imposition of the pain of “adjustment” on the already victimized majority. The latter are going to wait a very long time for the world capital market and its agents to do anything that serves their interests. Edward S. Herman Narberth, Pennsylvania 4 MAY 5, 1995