By Tessa Berenson
August 14, 2015

Dan Rather summed up his frustration with the Texas educational system using a typically folksy saying: “God did not put Texans on Earth to be 39th in anything.”

The former longtime CBS news anchor was referring to a recent ranking by Education Week which put the Lone Star State toward the bottom of the 50 states.

It’s one reason he and his grandson, Martin, are launching The Rather Prize, a $10,000 grant to the student, teacher or administrator who comes up with the best idea to improve Texas education.

Dan Rather is a product of Texas public schools, from elementary through college, while his grandson will start at Rice University in Houston in the fall.

“We want to give the opportunity to somebody who has a great idea that may be working right now or can be working at the local level, and give them the opportunity to have their idea scaled,” says Martin Rather.

Ironically, another reason for the prize is that Dan Rather thinks the press has done a poor job on the subject.

“I think much of the media’s coverage so often concentrates on the coverage of what does somebody in state government or local government, and what somebody in the federal government thinks about it rather than students or teachers,” he said. “The biggest voice missing in talking about how can we improve schools is that of students and teachers, and principals and administrators. They’re in there every day.”

Dan Rather says he’s “an optimist by nature and experience” when it comes to journalism, and “the potential of the digital era to not only teach, educate and inform, but also to inspire is almost limitless with all this new technology.”

But he acknowledges some troubling trends in the industry as well: “Deep digging investigative reporting is in steep decline and has been for some years. Quality international reporting has also shrunk to an alarming degree. So we find ourselves at the very time we need more, not less deep digging investigative reporting and international reporting, we’re getting less.”

The first recipient of The Rather Prize will be announced in February 2016.

Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.berenson@time.com.

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