Open Government Project
Government Watchdog
A Government Watchdog Group


State of Texas
Galveston County
City of Galveston
Wharves Board
Park Board
Public Interest Groups

by David Stanowski
09 April 2010

In many surveys, or informal discussions, when someone is asked to cite the reasons why they believe that people have been leaving this city since 1960; GISD is usually mentioned in the top three! Almost everyone has friends who have told them exactly that; i.e. they are moving so that they don't have to put their kids in the local schools. 

Some point to recent school boards or administrations as the reason for their low opinion of GISD. Others say it is not the fault of the schools at all, but rather the "less-than-ideal demographics" of the City; especially the high concentration of public housing and Section 8 units compared to other cities in the County. Galveston's top students may be as well educated as any in the County, but the under performers drag the average way down.

Regardless of how GISD's standing is determined, the fact remains that it ranks 735th out of 948 school districts in the State versus League City schools that rank 89th. This is why so many have voted with their feet and moved to the Mainland.

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How many people have been lost?
If the City of Galveston had continued to grow since 1960, at a rate merely equal to the overall average for the State of Texas, its population would have stood at 170,624 in 2008. This number may be unrealistic due to the character of the City, and the inability to expand off the Island, but 100,000 may have been doable if the City had been willing to expand vertically.

Such exercises are nothing more than theoretical speculation, but they do serve to illustrate the potential population loss, and a good deal of the "credit" for this loss can be laid at the doorstep of GISD.

Since everyone knew that GISD had been in a crisis for many years, where were the City leaders offering bold solutions? After all, the problems at the schools effected far more than just education; they have had a tremendous impact on the local economy, and the quality of life in the City.

When it is so obvious that the private school model consistently outperforms the defaco monopoly of government owned and operated schools, and at much lower costs, it would seem reasonable for a city reaching its tipping point to at least try to convert to a private voucher-based system. Obviously, special interest groups that profit from the government school system would fight such a change, but anything less does not offer the potential to turn the City around. Private schools have also had the most success in making dramatic improvements with the kind of student population GISD must serve.

In the 1960's, when the City faced a different sort of crisis, City leaders went to Austin and convinced the legislature to create the Park Board. Why hasn't there been a similar effort to convince Austin to let Galveston privatize its schools to give the City a fighting chance to reverse its decline?

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The Challenge:
It is now time for each candidate to step forward with their bold vision of how to revitalize the City's school system. Do you agree that the City should try to privatize the system? If not, why do you think that GISD will improve dramatically? What will cause it to do so? In short; if you don't have a bold plan for change, you are accepting the current dismal performance of the school system, and its dramatic impact on every facet of life in this city!

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The GOGP will be happy to publish your responses, but we hope that you will also share them in meetings with the voters, during the campaign, in guest columns, and that members of the media will ask you to articulate your visions for them.

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