You don’t exactly need to be a policy expert to guess that education will be a big issue for the upcoming 83rd Legislative Session. Come January, the Capitol will undoubtedly be bustling with the ubiquitous teacher protests and constituent calls to legislators complaining about salaries and a myriad of other issues. With such a sensitive topic, it’s easy for both sides to get distracted by yelling at each other and disconnected from the actual issues. Luckily, Texas will have a strong leader at the forefront of the discussion.
This afternoon, Governor Perry announced his appointment of Michael Williams as our new Commissioner of Education.
Williams is a compelling speaker and all-around good man with an impressive record of public service. Though most known for serving on the Railroad Commission, he was also Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights under President George H. W. Bush’s administration. His parents were also public school teachers. He has both a fresh perspective and a deep familiarity with education.
Texas faces the unfortunate – or fortunate, depending on how you look at it – dilemma of having too many solid Republicans and not enough elected offices to put them all in. It was disappointing to see Williams’ recent congressional campaign fail, but I’m glad to see he will continue to have a place in Texas politics and government – and perhaps one where he can make more of an impact in initiating new reforms and higher standards.
Texas’ education system isn’t nearly as bad as some might lead you to believe. We’re at or above national testing scores in just about every category without throwing nearly as much money around as other states.
But, of course, test scores and spending aren’t the only issues. What about school choice? Charter schools? Class sizes (and classroom sizes)? Schools neglecting to purchase important things like desks and bathroom doors? And don’t even get me started on schools buying flat-screen TVs while suing the state for more money.
Texas needs a fresh outlook on education; we need innovation, accountability, and high standards. Williams’ conservative, common-sense leadership will take Texas far.