The first team I wrote about in Big and Bright was La Marque High School. La Marque is a struggling working-class town outside of Galveston. In addition to writing about the proud, five-time state champion football program, I spoke about how the poor economy, local politics and the Texas education bureaucracy put the continued viability of La Marque High School in question.
From Big and Bright:
Whether La Marque High School will still exist 10 years from now is an open question. Rumors of the state taking over or the school shutting down are common in Galveston County. The perception is that La Marque is failing. Some wonder if the kids might be better served by closing the high school and sending them to Texas City High School a few miles up the road.
The poor economy helped lead the school to this perilous place. Political infighting among the school board, the superintendent and community leaders have also caused friction. The Galveston Daily News regularly reports on squabbles within the community. The source of the fighting is hard to follow, but it reads like a soap opera and makes good copy. From the outside, the stories show a town tearing itself apart
Recently, a school bond has been proposed to raise operating funds for the cash strapped district. Instead of “pulling on the same rope,” La Marque is fighting aboard a sinking ship. The bond faces an uphill battle. Accusations of incompetence, of a district that refuses to cut fat from its budgets have been made. Locals claim that poor test scores by the district’s students indicate poor management. All this conveniently ignores the societal and economic factors that make success for the LMISD so difficult.
The third and perhaps most dangerous threat to the existence of LMISD might be the State of Texas itself…
Football is the one thing that binds La Marque High School and the entire community together. Remarkably, when asked what would happen to the school without its football program, people from the superintendent down question if the school could survive at all. Knowing the struggles of this place, from funding to testing to the infighting within this town, it’s hard to doubt that La Marque High School might not exist except for football.
I looks like the fight to keep La Marque open may have come to an end. It was announced last week that the La Marque school district would lose its accreditation and the schools will be officially closed in July. The district will appeal, but stopping the momentum that has been building for years seems unlikely.
Who’s to blame? I can come up with a lot of culprits. A standardized testing system in Texas that reduces the effectiveness of schools to raw numbers, a dysfunctional La Marque government and school board that seemed to spend more time squabbling amongst them than trying to fix the problems and finally the way we fund public education in this country. Funding with local property taxes and bond issues don’t give aging and struggling districts like La Marque the resources of more affluent areas.
While La Marque is an extreme example, the same factors hurt public education in my district in Nevada and, I’m sure, nationwide.
Who’s NOT to blame. The teachers and coaches of the LMISD. Most work very hard and care about their students. This is certainly true of those I met, coaches who chose La Marque despite the toughest teaching load of any school I visited. The kids, teachers and coaches were let down by the system.
I’ll continue to hope for a miracle. I’m sad to see this kind of end to a school with so much tradition and pride.