Today is a good day to pause for a minute and recall how important public school districts are to civilized society. They are part of the bedrock upon which all the rest of it sits.

We were reminded of that this week by watching how quickly districts in Galveston County mobilized to feed children who otherwise would not have eaten while their campuses were closed.

It was an impressive and commendable response to the growing coronavirus crisis and a response that some other leaders might take lessons from if they were so inclined.

It also was a reminder about how much we expect from the educators, administrators and rank-and-file workers who keep the public schools functioning.

We expect them to deal with every societal problem we’ve ever heard about — poverty, homelessness, family strife, mental and physical health, drug and alcohol abuse and gun violence — and probably some we haven’t yet heard about and to educate children well enough to function in a complex, modern world.

Frequently, this fundamental public service job is also a thankless job and sometimes is worse than thankless.

The extent to which we rely on public schools is a relevant observation today, but it’s also a relevant public concern, or should be anyway, because there are people in the Texas Legislature who seem to believe we’d be better off without them.

If you doubt that, read the transcript of the infamous conversation among state lawmakers Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows and Michael Quinn Sullivan, the surrogate brain of many Texas conservatives. You can find it on the newspaper’s website in proximity to this editorial.

Here’s a little of what these three had to say:

Burrows said eliminating the public school maintenance and operation tax — that’s the revenue stream paying to maintain and operate public schools — is the Republican Party of Texas’ “number one priority.” That’s on page 21.

The context was these two elected leaders groveling to Sullivan, who nobody elected, about how they, and other like-minded Republicans, had done their best during the recently ended legislature to deliver a few Holy Grail bills, such as killing school taxes and dues check-off for public employee unions but had been stymied by those not committed to The Way.

They were virtually begging Sullivan not to turn his political machine, Empower Texans, against them during the GOP primaries.

It’s reasonable, in fact it’s a matter of civic responsibility, to ask how the public schools could function without the maintenance and operation tax, and why anybody would want to destroy the public education system we’ve spent decades building and upon which so much else depends.

The answer to the former seems clear — they can’t. The latter maybe less so. Could it be that some lawmakers think ignorant people are more apt to buy the dubious goods they’re selling?

It’s also reasonable to ask where these three, and those like-minded lawmakers, have been the past few days.

We know where our public school workers have been — out on the sidewalk delivering meals, helping hold everything together.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

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(15) comments

Robert Braeking

Helping public schools is simple. Instead of operating our schools as a socialist collective, we should allow students to enroll in the school of their choice. The competition would improve all schools and transform them into excellence.

Gary Miller

Robert> So true but not PC.

Diane Turski

Stop voting for these nit wits!!!!

Gary Miller

Diane> The nit wits are a product of public schools.

Ted Gillis

Diane, These nitwits keep getting re-elected because they have an (R) by their name. They need no other qualifications in the eyes of voters who can't seem to bring themselves to vote for a democratic candidate no matter how qualified they are. It’s a heard mentality of thinking, with years of unaccountability thrown in.

I have nothing against private schools. They serve a purpose. However, public schools should be funded evenly and fully, by either a locally run district or by the state or both. Private schools should be funded privately by tuition or private endowments, with no public tax dollars. The slow systematic underfunding of public schools that has been going on since Ann Richards left office is a disgrace. We need to pay attention to who we vote for.

Thank you Michael Smith for bringing this story to our attention.

Robert Braeking

Perhaps the English departments at our schools would edify our students more thoroughly we were to carefully consider for whom we vote. The tax dollars are designated for the education of our children. Having paid the tuition of 3 generations of children, I consider it to be my prerogative to allow tax dollars to be spent at any school regardless the management or ownership. Obviously, the state run schools are not getting the job done.

Gary Miller

Ted> Students not schools should enjoy equal funding. A student in a private school should get the same state funding as one in a ISD ( public ) school. All citizens should be funded equally with state funds.

Miceal O'Laochdha

While I certainly agree that it is a positive example of concern for the well-being of our community's children that their families are able to drive by and pick up their free meals but, one thing really struck me when looking at the photos of the process in the newspaper: what nice, new and expensive automobiles contained those needy children. Certainly, newer and nicer than my own truck. I guess I don't understand the priorities at work here.

Walter Dannenmaier

The poverty industry remains one of the pillars of our local economy, along with tourism, UTMB, and the port. This should have been evident to all in the aftermath of Ike. Please recall, we had 50 units of FEMA housing near the airport, but only eight of them were occupied. My conclusion was that only eight families in town were so down on their luck that they had nowhere else to go. But we persisted in re-building thousands of low-income housing units, advertised for more poor folks to try to drive our population above 50,000 to secure additional Federal money and are looking to take down our community center to build more. Real poor people are skinny. We don't have skinny poor in Galveston.

Charlotte O'rourke

“We know where our public school workers have been — out on the sidewalk delivering meals, helping hold everything together.”

And that’s how we know there are wonderful people in the world that truly care about others.

Whether you are a school teacher, health care worker, or first responder, thank you for your tireless efforts to keep people safe - not only during this uncertain time but every single day.

God bless you and keep you safe.

Carlos Ponce

“We know where our public school workers have been — out on the sidewalk delivering meals, helping hold everything together.”

God Bless the cafeteria workers!

Charlotte O'rourke

Absolutely .... as well as every “public school worker” and volunteer not specifically mentioned.

Gary Miller

Charlotte> If paid enough they do great things. Do you actually think they volunteered.

Charlotte O'rourke

Yes Gary, I think many people go above and beyond the call of duty and it’s not about the frequently very small or nonexistent paycheck.

Raymond Lewis

Excellent (even courageous) piece Michael.

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