Former Lt. Gov. calls community to support public education

Published on Thursday, 3 October 2013 22:01 - Written by By Emily Guevara eguevara@tylerpaper.com

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff called on the community to support public education and be among those seeking to better it rather than criticize it.

“Our public schools are too important to be left to the naysayers,” he said Thursday during a luncheon at Willow Brook Country Club. “We must do all we can to provide support for our schools so that we can impart a better and better education to our youth.”

About 80 business, education and religious leaders attended the luncheon during which Ratliff spoke on behalf of Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit organization he helped launch in 2007.

The organization exists to improve public school campuses and districts by investing in school leaders, developing effective education policy and building support for public education.

“We’re not trying to create a state level organization from the onset,” CEO Dr. David Anthony said. “We want local communities engaged and we’re having these luncheons all over the state to get movers and shakers like you, influencers like you to get engaged in your community and engage other people.”

Former Tyler ISD school board President Michelle Carr is the organization’s East Texas community ambassador.

Mrs. Carr said she targeted a variety of groups to attend the luncheon including higher education officials, community leaders, area school and campus-level administrators and the Tyler Area Business-Education Council.

“I would like to see our community rally around public education and work cooperatively together for the benefit of the community,” she said.

Ratliff addressed several education issues including standardized testing, educator evaluations and the need for early childhood education.

He said Texas seems to go out of its way to demoralize its teachers, who often feel underappreciated and are underpaid.

“Our organization does not subscribe to the notion that the way to improve our public schools is to constantly level harsher and harsher criticism at our educators,” he said. “We think this is the wrong recipe for improvement in the children’s education. We believe it is far better to work constructively toward measures that can help our educators do a better job rather than continuously beating them down for failing to meet our goals.”

Some of the ways the organization works for good is through its leadership programs.

Through partnerships with Harvard Graduate School of Education and Rice University, the organization offers training for campus principals and other educators.

Robert E. Lee High School Principal Gary Brown participated in the Harvard program in 2008 and shared about the experience.

“I found it invigorating in the sense that we were really sitting down and tackling some real world educational challenges that we were facing and it was much more about the actions that we were going to take when we returned back to our home campuses than it was the talk or the theoretical or the practice,” he said.

Raise Your Hand Texas also advocates for full-day pre-K opportunities for students because research shows that helps to close the achievement gap among students of different socioeconomic levels.

Ratliff and Anthony spoke about some of the successes for education in this year’s legislative session

These include more flexibility to allow high school students to choose courses that will target specific technical and career paths, about $5 billion in additional funding to partially make up for shortfalls since 2009 and the reigning in of the standardized testing system.

“My message to you today is that our public schools deserve our support and to a large extent they’re not receiving it,” Ratliff said. “Instead they’re the constant targets of criticism by those who for whatever reason have an agenda that consists of pointing out every wart on the system, but not acknowledging its successes.

“I call on each of you to heed President Roosevelt’s paraphrased words, ‘It’s not the education critic that counts, not the person who points out how teachers have stumbled or where the person in the classroom could have done it better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the classroom.’”

For more information about the organization visitwww.RaiseYourHandTexas.org or email mcarr@raiseyourhandtexas.org.