Month: <span>August 2015</span>

Criminal charges aside, Paxton bad news for Texas schools


I doubt that most Texans, including thousands of people who voted for him, could have told you the name of the state attorney general before he was indicted on securities fraud charges. Now, Ken Paxton has a higher public profile and a mugshot to boot. I am not going to prejudge the criminal case against him because he is entitled to his day in court. But even before his notoriety he was bad news for public education and still is.

As a legislator in 2011, Paxton voted for the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts that cost many educators their jobs, forced overcrowding of many classrooms and still plague many school districts. And, as attorney general, he avidly defended a school funding system that a state judge has declared inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional.

In a recent brief urging the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling, Paxton criticized the “experts and interest groups” (i.e. educators) who are trying to win a “public education system more to their liking.” Actually, the 600 school districts that sued the state are simply trying to win a final court ruling that orders the legislative majority to fulfill its constitutional duty to the school children of Texas.

Largely a political unknown even to Republican primary voters, Paxton won the GOP nomination last year by waving his anti-abortion credentials and claiming to be more righteous (no fooling) than his opponents. Then after conducting a low-profile general election campaign, he was swept into office on a strong Republican vote.

TSTA endorsed attorney Sam Houston, his Democratic opponent.



For educators, Kansas isn’t Kansas anymore


Regardless of where you may teach, be grateful that you aren’t trying to teach in Kansas. If you are, you have my sympathy because even Dorothy and Toto wouldn’t recognize the place anymore, following the devastation to public education wrought by Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative cronies.

It is so bad, according to the Washington Post item linked below, that teachers “can’t hotfoot it out of Kansas fast enough.”

Kansas teachers are among the lowest paid in the country – lower, on average, than Texas. They have been suffering through state budget cuts that seemingly won’t stop and are losing job protections. The result is a large teacher shortage that is expected to get worse. Several thousand Kansas teachers have either left the profession or taken their talents to other states, including neighboring Missouri.

Rather than adequately fund public education, Gov. Brownback and the Legislature cut taxes in 2012, and here are some of the things that have happened since:

# A state court declared part of Kansas’ school funding system unconstitutional.

# Some Kansas school districts ran out of money and had to end the school year early last spring.

# The Kansas Board of Education gave six school districts, including two of the state’s largest, the authority to hire unlicensed teachers. The board acted under a program for “innovative districts” created by the Kansas Legislature in 2013. It was based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing organization promoting efforts throughout the country (including Texas) to under-fund public schools, declare them failures and then privatize them.

Brownback obviously is the kind of governor that ALEC likes. He reacted to all the problems by proposing another cut in per-pupil general school aid.

The mess in Kansas kind of makes me wonder why Brownback, a Republican, doesn’t run for president. He would be a disaster in the White House, but he would be right at home among a bunch of other anti-government, anti-public education candidates running for the GOP nomination.