Month: <span>April 2015</span>

The politics of denial


The future is coming, folks, despite what many members of the legislative majority in Austin seem to think as they continue practicing the politics of denial.

Just yesterday, the Senate approved a new state budget that under-funds education and other critical state services, despite the fact that the state’s population will continue to grow, adding 80,000 students a year to Texas public schools and stretching an infrastructure of public services that already is perilously thin.

The House version of the budget would spend more on education, but both the House and the Senate would leave billions of dollars unspent or dedicated to “tax relief” – tax reductions that will give conservative leaders something to brag about but which will be largely unnoticed by the vast majority of Texas taxpayers.

Not only are many legislators denying the needs of a growing population, they also are denying what that population will look like.

Last week, a Senate committee approved two separate bills that slap at the emerging majority of Texans. One would repeal a state law that allows some children of undocumented immigrants – children who have lived in Texas for years and graduated from high school here – to pay in-state tuition at state universities. The other, a so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, would stop cities from putting limits on immigration enforcement by local police officers.

Both bills, spurred by the politics of fear and denial, are championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who refuses to recognize – or admit — that putting the state in reverse is not leadership.

The future is coming, folks, and no number of under-funded budgets or immigrant-bashing bills is going to change that fact. Under-funded budgets and fear-mongering legislation, however, are going to leave Texas ill-prepared to deal with its future needs.





Heading in opposite directions on education


The Texas Senate, beginning with the Senate Education Committee, still needs an education in public education. For starters, it can take lessons from its counterpart, the House Public Education Committee, on the other side of the Capitol.

Yesterday, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, chairman of the House committee, was explaining his proposal to add $3 billion in funding (above enrollment growth) to public schools and try to provide a fairer distribution of funding between rich and poor school districts.

Now, $3 billion is probably not enough money, and school finance experts probably can find other faults with Aycock’s plan. But the point is he is actually trying to address a serious problem in public education, an issue that already has prompted a state judge to declare the school funding system unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, what has the Senate Education Committee been doing? The answer is not much except fooling around with one unproven privatization scheme after another.

Today, the Senate panel approved Senate Bill 4, which would divert tax dollars from public education by creating “opportunity scholarships” for students attending private schools. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck…This is a private school voucher bill, folks, a huge step in the wrong direction.

On the House side, Aycock is trying to improve funding for public schools, while his counterparts in the Senate continue to undermine them.

The fight over vouchers and school funding is far from over, but I, for one, am very grateful our fore-parents created two legislative chambers.


Rating legislative performances on the A-F scale


You may have heard by now that the state Senate this week approved a worse-than-worthless piece of legislation, the bill to submit public school campuses to an A-F grading system. It’s worthless because it would do absolutely nothing to give teachers and students the support they need for success. And, it is worse-than-worthless because it is a contrived political maneuver to blame teachers and students for the failure of the legislative majority to provide an adequate and fair system of funding public schools.

But, while we are on the subject of grading performances, what kind of letter grades should be attached to some of the performances over at the Capitol?

Let’s start with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the biggest and loudest promoter of the A-F scheme and several other bad ideas being considered by lawmakers under the guise of “education reform.” How about his vote four years ago to cut $5.4 billion from public school budgets and his follow-up play two years ago to vote against the entire state budget, including all education funding?

I think you may see where I am headed. The possibilities are many, but in the interest of space I will offer only a few other grading opportunities:

# Sen. Donna Campbell, the voucher advocate who called our public school system a “monstrosity.”

# The Senate majority, which approved – in the name of student “safety” — a bill to allow people to carry handguns on university campuses, over the objections of many university administrators.

# Dan Patrick (again), who insisted the Senate approve more than $4 billion in tax cuts before appropriating a dime for public schools, health care or any other public service. And the Senate majority, which gave him what he wanted.

# Patrick and other border “security” advocates, who have let traffic and crime enforcement in most of Texas slide while loading up a small stretch of the Mexican border with state troopers.

# Rep. Stuart Spitzer (a medical doctor, no less), who succeeded in diverting $3 million from HIV and STD prevention programs to sex education programs promoting abstinence.

Whatever grade you may want to give Spitzer’s priorities, he may deserve an “A” for honesty, however, for noting, during public debate, that he was a 29-year-old virgin when he met his wife. It may have been the first time, ever, that such a statement was uttered on the floor of the Texas House.