How would GOP candidates improve education?

February 26, 2010 5:53:30 PM PST
The next governor will have a lot of things to deal with regarding your child's education. Texas has the nation's second largest public school system. But when it comes to spending per student, Texas is near the bottom of the list. Parents and voters will disagree about how much help politicians can offer in the classroom, but school funding is very political. And how much your child's school gets is something the next governor could have a large say in.

Just a few weeks ago, Governor Rick Perry was one of just two state governors to say no to federal education stimulus money. It could've been as much as $700 million for Texas schools, but the governor didn't like it.

"Washington, DC was trying to make Texas change the cultural way that we historically did unemployment insurance and the idea that we're supposed to accept national standards and national tests for our education. It's a bit out of the mainstream for most Texans," said Gov. Perry.

He wasn't alone in his concern. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison agreed, sort of, but now says she would've at least tried to get some of the cash.

"What I would do is negotiate to see if we could set our standards," said Sen. Hutchison.

They both agree though that money isn't the only cure for Texas schools.

"Finding those statistics those little statistics and holding them up and saying, 'Oh my goodness - great failure' is a diversionary tactic," said Gov. Perry.

The incumbent governor says he's increased education spending during his nine years as governor by 43 percent, and that national statistics don't tell Texas' story of increasing charter school access and education accountability.

Senator Hutchison's education plan seeks innovation not necessarily increased investment.

"We are not using the money that we have wisely. There's a $4,000 per pupil gap between the lowest that is spent and the highest and yet that doesn't necessarily indicate the schools that are successful," said Sen. Hutchison.

The third Republican, Debra Medina, wants to do away with property taxes that fund Texas schools in favor of a sales tax which would completely undo the current school funding system and more. Medina would expand school choice and turn control of curriculum and spending to local districts.

"Let's begin to let independent school districts regain their independence. They've crying for that, parents have been crying for that for years. Most of us don't like one size fits all government out of Washington, just like most of us don't like one size fits all from Austin," said Medina.

None of the other candidates besides Medina pledge to get rid of or substantially change the Robin Hood school funding rules.

On his website, Democrat Bill White lists several ideas to change education, but not how he would pay for it.

On Tuesday, Eyewitness News is fanning out to be with all these candidates on election night, including in Austin with Governor Perry.

If you are set to head to the polls Tuesday, you'll want to be prepared. Get a look at sample ballots and find the polling locations near you.