Many of the members of Texas Kids Can’t Wait attended and had leadership roles in the Greater Waco Education Alliance Summit on Nov. 14-15 in Waco, led by former mayor Virginia Dupuy, who also has been very supportive of our work. One of their board members and, we are proud to say, one of our members, Ken Hampton from the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, was the master of ceremonies for all the general sessions.
It was quite a series of events, beginning with a great talk by Rick Noriega, president and CEO of Avance, about the critical importance of early childhood education and outreach to/education of mothers of some of our most vulnerable children. To our great pleasure, he quoted extensively from neuroscience, which really is a blend of research from education, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Ongoing studies on how we learn and how we remember hold great promise for more effective policy and practice at every level of education, continuing from womb to tomb!
The Thursday morning speech by former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff was another high point. He described the tragedy of Texas school funding over the past several years (see a copy of his IMPORTANT white paper on this topic on this blog page), resulting in budget cuts of more than $8 billion–but also not taking into account the growth of about 80,000 new students in Texas schools each year; inflation; and the exponentially growing rate of children living in poverty. He concluded with the cry for “mamas” to become riled and to communicate with legislators about their expectations for quality education, including equitable and adequate funding for schools. Linda Ethridge, in the discussion time, pointed out that Texas Kids Can’t Wait is exactly that, but we also welcome dads who are riled. Watch the Waco Tribune-Herald for their interview of Gov. Ratliff.
The third high point was a standing-room-only breakout session on school funding presented by Dr. Ray Freeman of the Equity Center in Austin and Dr. Bonnie Lesley of Texas Kids Can’t Wait. Dr. Freeman gave an update on the current litigation in the courts relating to school funding, and Dr. Lesley provided information relative to how McLennan County school districts fare in the current system (NOT good) and how the system shorts us almost $200,000,000 a year! She also discussed the five areas where money matters the most in education: quality teachers, small class size, preschool programs, interventions for struggling learners, and high expectations/rigorous curriculum–and how the recent budget cuts of $5.4 billion have resulted in huge cuts in each of these areas.
There were many other meaningful breakout sessions, and all of us who were there had multiple opportunities to speak with other participants and recruit them to our cause. We estimate more than 100 new members just from this conference. In addition, we, on the spot, were able to schedule a number of public forums.