Guest Commentary

'We must come up with an education policy that does not pick winners and losers'

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Last month I stood in the middle of the circle of desks at the State Board of Education taking the oath of office. As I was standing there, repeating my oath being administered by Senator Larry Taylor, I asked myself, “How did I end up here?” Many years ago, I answered the call to serve on two different committees at my local school district, then I answered the call to serve on the Lufkin ISD board of trustees, which led me to answer the call to run for the State Board of Education. I answered yes to all of these calls because of my dedication and care for children.

I have been a member of the Lions Club International for 19 years. The Lions motto is simply, “We Serve”. I would like to put out a call to action that we all heed that motto of service to the children of Texas. There is much work to do.

I will admit when my three children were going through their K-12 public education, my wife and I tended to make decisions, concerning their education, based on what was most advantageous for them. As I served on the Lufkin ISD School Board I quickly learned to focus on making decisions that were in the best interest of the 8,300 children of Lufkin ISD. Now I am tasked with making decision for the 5.3 million children of our great State. The importance of getting this right cannot be understated.

Education Commissioner, Mike Morath, has shared his philosophy of following the creed “Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me.” In other words, we have a duty to make sure every child has an opportunity in life and education is the key to that opportunity. Mr. Morath then went on to say that even if you didn’t subscribe to that creed, you surely would understand that providing a quality education to every child in this State is critical to the future success of our State. I absolutely agree.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard a lot of debate about education lately. From our Texas Supreme Court ruling on school finance, to the proposed education savings accounts (i.e. vouchers) and the nomination of the new U.S. Secretary of Education.

A healthy debate on these topics is in order, yet I still contend that if we are intent on serving the children of this State, we must come up with an education policy that does not pick winners and losers. We are all in this together.

Instead of arguing about funding, vouchers, charters and choice, if each and every one of us found a way to “serve” a child, there would be much less need for these arguments. Find a program that allows you to read to a child, mentor a student, encourage your church to adopt a campus or simply call your local school district and ask “how can I help”.

Be ready, because you never know when you may be called upon like I have to serve in a rewarding capacity of serving children. There are a lot of things you can do to make your life better, but there is nothing you can do greater than bettering the future of a child.

Dr. Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) is the representative for District 9 on the Texas State Board of Education.

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