Month: October 2014

Abbott’s insensitivity includes disabled Texans and school kids

 

With Greg Abbott, hypocrisy and insensitivity to the needs of most Texans, including school children and people with disabilities, go hand in hand. And, that serious flaw is borne out in a statement an Abbott spokesman made to describe Abbott’s legal and political philosophy as attorney general.

The quotation was in an article, published in The Dallas Morning News, about how Abbott has repeatedly gone to court to fight against disabled Texans who have sued state government, seeking accommodations – services or facilities to make their lives more manageable — to which they are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It presents more evidence of how Abbott, who personally benefits from the disability act and won a multimillion-dollar settlement after suing over his own disabling injury years ago, has devoted much of his political career to blocking efforts by other Texans to receive compensation for similar life-altering experiences. This includes his efforts, as a Supreme Court justice and attorney general, to restrict settlements in damage lawsuits and claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How does Abbott’s spokesman, Jerry Strickland, explain the hypocrisy?

“It’s the attorney general’s duty to zealously represent the interests of the state of Texas, and in these cases that meant raising all applicable legal arguments in litigation where Texas was sued in court,” Strickland said.

Hooey.

The state of Texas is more than the official seal on the attorney general’s office wall and more than Abbott’s cadre of well-heeled, financial contributors. The state of Texas also includes disabled Texans who are simply seeking help to which they are entitled, help to assist them with everyday living, services or facilities that in many cases are more modest than the lawsuit settlement that has helped Abbott continue to live his life.

For that matter, the state of Texas also includes millions of school children in hundreds of school districts that have sued the state over inadequate education funding. By continuing to fight that lawsuit, Abbott isn’t representing the best interests of those kids either or, for that matter, the best interests of the state as a whole.

After getting the help he needed, Abbott has been driven by a selfish ideological philosophy that makes him insensitive to the very real needs of many Texans. And, there is no reason to expect him to change, should he be elected governor.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/headlines/20140215-greg-abbott-pushes-to-block-disabled-texans-lawsuits-against-state.ece

 

A valuable teaching moment for democracy

 

Even if the dinosaurs on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturn her order – and that may happen before you read this – U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos provided a valuable teaching moment when she struck down Texas’ voter identification law yesterday. The lesson, of course, is that democracy is fragile and easily abused by people in power who don’t think democracy necessarily should apply to them.

Whether this judge’s order is upheld or overturned by higher courts within the next couple of weeks could have a significant effect on the outcome of key elections in Texas, including those for governor, lieutenant governor and several legislative seats, and how public education and other important public services are affected during next year’s legislative session.

The legislative majority enacted the voter ID law in 2011, during the same session in which the same legislators slashed $5.4 billion from public school budgets in Texas. The law requires voters to produce one of seven forms of photo identification (in addition to voter registration cards) to be allowed to cast ballots in Texas elections.

The legislative majority tried to damage educational opportunities for a public school population that is growing increasingly minority. And it tried to discourage many of those kids’ parents and grandparents from exercising their constitutional right to vote and turning the education-cutters out of office. More than 600,000 registered Texas voters don’t have a driver’s license or other valid form of photo ID, and most of those are Hispanic or black. The potentially expensive, bureaucratic hurdles to get an acceptable ID are an unconstitutional burden, Judge Gonzales Ramos ruled.

She likened the law to the poll taxes imposed by Texas and other southern states during the Jim Crow-era to discourage black Americans from voting. Poll taxes were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court years ago.

The alleged voter fraud that Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and other supporters use as an excuse for the law is, in itself, a fraud. Voter fraud, from a statistical standpoint, is practically non-existent in Texas. Abbott, the attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, immediately announced he will appeal Judge Gonzales Ramos’ ruling. He has the support of Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor nominee, who not only wants to close the border to immigrants, but also wants to keep Texas citizens who don’t look like him or agree with him from voting.

Abbott, Patrick and other supporters of voter ID are trying to use it to keep minority voter turnout low because minority voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. They do so because they value public education, health care and other critical services that most Democrats continue to champion.

Supporters of the voter ID law have something in common with the segregationists who tried to block schoolhouse and college doors to black students back in the 1960s. To varying degrees, both groups were and are abusing democracy.

The segregationists ended up on the wrong side of history. And so will the voter ID defenders, who will be the real losers in the civics lessons that Texas students will be taught in the not-too-distant future.

 

 

 

Another education-cutter trying to sneak back into office

 

Rodney Anderson, a former legislator and former tormentor of public schools, is trying to make a comeback this November, so he can pick up where he left off three years ago, making deep cuts into educators’ jobs and children’s opportunities.

Anderson is trying to sneak back into office by claiming falsely to be an education champion, and I am sure he isn’t the only education-cutter out there using the same act. His, however, recently was called to my attention. So voters in Texas House District 105 in Dallas County, you have been warned.

Anderson, the Republican nominee in that race, voted for the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts in 2011, before falling victim to redistricting and losing a reelection race in 2012. Now, he is running again.

In a recent campaign flyer, Anderson made several education promises, including pledges to put students and teachers first, spend more money in the classroom and allow schools to “keep their best and brightest teachers.”

Each one is a hollow promise that Anderson cannot be counted upon to even try to deliver.

The budget cuts he voted for the last time he was in the Texas House cost 11,000 teacher jobs, including almost 200 in Irving and Grand Prairie, which are within District 105. Many of those lost jobs had belonged to some of our best teachers. And, thousands of children were crammed into overcrowded classrooms.

He voted for the cuts while leaving several billion dollars of taxpayer money unspent in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. So, if he tells you he had to make the cuts, don’t believe him.

Anderson’s opponent, Susan Motley, also promises to give a high priority to students and teachers, and, unlike Anderson, she is telling the truth, and she will deliver for education.

Anderson and his fellow budget-cutters – candidates and officeholders up and down the ballot — will continue to cloud the air during the remainder of the election season by giving lip service to education and rewriting their political histories. It is easy for voters to get lost in the smoke. So, to be on the safe side, click on the link below and check out TSTA’s endorsements in contested state races. TSTA endorses candidates and officeholders who truly are advocates for public schools, people who can be counted upon to deliver for students and educators, not spin fairy tales.

http://tsta.org/sites/default/files/EndorsedCandidates14_0.pdf

 

 

 

 

A strong school system needs more than more of the same

 

This analogy may be an overextended stretch into the dramatic, but Texas’ growing public education system reminds me a little of the Titanic. It is an ambitious, enormous venture with serious, basic flaws. The Titanic sank too easily and didn’t have enough lifeboats. Our education system is not adequately or fairly funded and, like the Titanic, is on a collision course with trouble.

As attorney general, Greg Abbott continues to defend the indefensible school finance system, including $5.4 billion in budget cuts, despite a judge’s strongly worded ruling that school funding is inadequate, unconstitutional and overdue for a real remedy. As a candidate for governor, Abbott issues little more than hollow statements about making Texas education No. 1 in the country without offering anything that would realistically bring that about.

Abbott represents “status quo-plus,” as The Dallas Morning News noted in an editorial this week, and for Texas school kids and educators that means more crowded classrooms, more standardized tests and more experimentation with school privatization for a select few students, while a growing number of parents fume and worry.

If Abbott were captain of the Titanic, as the old cliché suggests, he would be busily rearranging the deck chairs, oblivious to the iceberg looming ever closer.

Wendy Davis wants to avoid the iceberg, and, as governor, would set a new course for Texas schools, beginning with a realistic school funding plan to meet the challenges of a public education system growing by 80,000 students a year. She will work to expand crucial pre-kindergarten programs that will determine classroom success for thousands of children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She will cut back on standardized tests, promote college readiness and treat teachers and other school employees as the professionals they are, including efforts to begin moving teacher pay toward the national average.

Davis has been accused by some, including The Dallas Morning News, of not knowing – or avoiding – how she would pay for these needed educational improvements. Some have suggested that, as governor, she would promote a major tax increase. In truth, she won’t because, one, the conservative Legislature won’t pass a major tax increase, and, two, higher taxes aren’t necessary to begin accomplishing what Davis wants to do.

Billions of additional dollars will be available from existing taxes, the comptroller’s office told the House Ways and Means Committee a couple of weeks ago. Sales tax revenue has been increasing by about 5.5 percent a year, thanks to the strong economy, and the Rainy Day Fund balance is sitting at $8.4 billion and will soon grow to double digits.

“I will set a vision,” Davis said during her second debate with Abbott. A vision that is strong enough to see the iceberg coming – and do something about it.