Like many states, Texas is facing a significant budget short fall this year. But unlike most states, the Texas crisis has little to do with the down turn in the economy, less to do with the cost of labor and everything to do poor leadership by the Governor and the legislature. As has been reported over and over again, the Texas budget crisis is due to a structural tax deficit that was caused when the Governor cut property taxes, but did not replace the lost revenue with another revenue stream. He did this in spite of repeated warnings by the state comptroller who accurately predicted the situation we now find ourselves in. If a superintendent, principal or head coach made such a catastrophic error in judgment, they would most likely be fired. We will have to see how the voters respond, three long years from now. Now, that I have bashed the Governor, his homemade crisis may reap some long-term structural benefits. For example, consider class size. I am a fan of the 22:1 ratio, but it is an arbitrary number (created by political compromise) and a number that was selected before the advent of instructional technology, common scope and sequences, and improved instructional practices. As a profession, we are better now than we were before. A slight adjustment to the ratio (perhaps 24:1, with class leveling) will not destroy education as we know it (especially if there is some compensation for teachers). Second, elective courses. Again, I am a fan of electives, but electives are add on’s. If we have to cut some to protect the core, I can live with that. At the very least, elective classes must have at least the same number of students in them (if not more) than core classes. It is hard to argue that we are being efficient with our funding when there are 32 students in an algebra class and 15 in a French class. Third, during the day athletic periods. As you read this, understand that I am an advocate for and product of school athletics. But, the true cost of athletics is the lost instructional periods that could be provided during the day by the coaching staff. Move athletics to before and after school. This will have a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line. The benefit to students is the same (they still can participate in athletics); the cost to the state and district is reduced. And where the during the day athletic period only benefits the athlete. The extra instructional periods (and reduced class sizes that will result from this) benefit every student. Next up, for our “free market, competition makes us all better” politicians, quit talking and do something. When we have schools and school districts that by objective measures (oops, sorry TPM, RI, exemptions and exceptions) are leading the pack, we need to reward them and learn from them. Take Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, third largest district in the state and still a fast growth district. This district is either keeping pace with or outperforming its peers, with per pupil expenditures less than its surrounding districts (by the way, the LYS schools in Cy-Fair outperform the other Cy-Fair schools – but that is another story). Our business model politicians should be pumping money into this district, to see how high it can go and which of its practices should be replicated. Instead they crow about how much more money they can squeeze from the district. Which is why, in spite of their rhetoric, this proves that these politicians are more about personal greed and power, than following business principles. Plus, by their practice and policy these politicians are creating disincentives for quality and innovation in education. The Cy-Fair principal, who with all things being equal produces more student success with fewer resources, at a scale that is unrivaled, for less pay, is now leaving the district in droves. If GE lost all of its best managers over the course of 18 months its stock price would most likely crash. That’s the business model. But in this case, we will just hope that our elected leaders know best (see current budget crisis). Finally, every Texas educator should start his or her day by climbing up on the school roof with a bullhorn and yell, “Bond money and operations money are different. They cannot be combined. Not one text book or teacher was sacrificed when we built this building.” This obvious truth is all but lost on the general public, and the politicians who curry favor by confusing this issue have neither the intellectual capacity nor the moral integrity to warrant our vote. Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…Follow Sean Cain on


Reflections on Phoenix

Another NASSP Conference in the books. Attendance was a little lighter than I expected, but budgets are tight. Overall, I…