Sworn to serve?
- Written by Lynn Fields
It is no secret that school funding is a major issue facing school districts across Texas. And as our area legislators gear up for the 81st regular session of the Texas Legislature, which opened Jan. 13, districts like Humble ISD are making their pleas for a reform of the outdated school finance formulas that have left them scrambling for ways to cover huge budget deficits without sacrificing quality educational programs. Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Guy Sconzo and several members of the school district’s Legislative Committee hosted a luncheon last week for area legislators so they could express the District’s needs, ask questions about possible solutions to the financial crisis and in general, offer the District’s assistance in any proposals being formulated. U.S. Sen. Tommy Williams, who has consistently worked with the District on education issues and who regularly shows up for such meetings, was there along with his education aide. So was a representative for Rep. Debbie Riddle, who had to be in Austin for a meeting. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, another elected official who has long been a friend to the District and to public education, had planned to attend but suffered a knee injury and was unable to make it. Guess who was NOT there? Once again, Rep. Joe Crabb snubbed the invitation to participate in a discussion of school finance law. And when asked several days beforehand why the representative was not planning to attend the meeting, Crabb’s aide responded, “Why should he? The last time he came to something, he just got criticized.” Criticized, indeed. What the aide was referring to was criticism of a comment Crabb made at a meeting of teachers, principals, school board members and Sconzo several years ago. After repeated requests for a meeting with the representative, all of which had been turned down, Crabb finally agreed to visit with the group at a breakfast meeting. Uppermost on everyone’s mind of course, was the school finance situation, which at that time, was becoming an obvious problem for fast-growth school districts like Humble. Crabb began his remarks to the group by slapping the table and stating flatly, “First, I am NOT going to talk about school finance with you people.” He then launched into a long, folksy monologue about his childhood, his work as a preacher, and other personal anecdotes. Needless to say, the assembled group was disappointed. And insulted. Some were even in tears. Last week’s legislative luncheon underscored what the District has now come to recognize: Crabb is not a representative our schools can depend on. Webster’s Dictionary defines “representative” as: serving; standing or acting for another especially through delegated authority. It is a slap in the face of public service when someone who is elected to public office allows a personal vendetta or sheer arrogance to get in the way of serving those he was elected to represent. Never mind that the District is one of the largest employers in his district, or that state funding of education is forcing his taxpayers to carry more of the burden of educating our children. The education of today’s children is the foundation of future economic stability in Texas. Our communities are built around schools. Old funding formulas that leave districts like Humble no choice but to cut millions of dollars out of programs that directly affect our children must be changed. And legislators must work with school districts to come up with an equitable funding law that assures a quality education for all children. Whether or not you “like” the District or its representatives is not the issue. Service to your constituents, the folks who sent you to office is. The public’s trust in its elected officials develops as we watch how they serve their constituents…ALL of their constituents. Let’s hope that in this new year, everyone can work together to see that the state’s contribution to public education is adequate enough to assure bright futures for our children. The school district will continue to try to bring all players to the table for dialog about our district’s financial dilemma. It is what ALL elected officials and school administrators are sworn to do…serve. Lynn Fields is a former Humble ISD Trustee and lives in Kingwood.