Month: <span>February 2017</span>

Teachers are good for business, but some businesses don’t get it


Teachers are good for business. We all know that, right? All of us, apparently, except members of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) or, at least, its Texas leadership in Austin.

NFIB, the group of small business owners, is one of the main drivers behind the anti-teacher, anti-public employee piece of legislation known as the dues deduction bill (SB13 in the Senate and HB510 in the House).

Yes, teachers are good for business. They and their families shop in the small businesses in their home communities, and they educate the future employees who will help many of these businesses continue to prosper.

Yet, the small business owners who belong to NFIB are literally biting the hands of the educators who help keep them in business by promoting legislation that is vindictive against educators and other public employees caught in the NFIB’s blind vendetta against organized labor in a right-to-work state.

The legislation wouldn’t affect businesses’ relationships with private labor unions at all, but it would harm educators’ First Amendment rights to have their voices heard without fear of reprisal when education policy is debated in the legislative arena. Many of these educators don’t even belong to unions. They belong to other educator groups.

NFIB and its allies are trying to do this through the legislation, mentioned above, which would prohibit educators and most other public employees from having their membership dues in professional organizations automatically deducted from their paychecks. The only public employees excluded from the bill are police, firefighters and other first responders. Their unions and associations, however, have joined TSTA and other employee organizations in opposing the bill because they know it is unfair and they could be added to it.

School districts, cities and counties have been routinely deducting membership dues — just as they do voluntary donations for charity and a number of other causes — from employee paychecks for years. The practice doesn’t cost taxpayers any money, it is safe and convenient for employees and the deductions are completely voluntary. Remember, no one has to belong to a union or any other employee association in Texas.

The bill, which also is backed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Republican leaders, was heard Monday by the Senate State Affairs Committee, which is expected to vote on it later this week.

Despite bill supporters’ claims to the contrary, Sen. Joan Huffman of Houston, the bill sponsor, admitted in the hearing that the dues deduction practice doesn’t cost any governmental entity money. When asked why police, firefighters and other first-responders would still be allowed to practice dues deduction, she replied, “They don’t get involved in business issues.”

In other words, Huffman, a Republican, likes the generally conservative politics of many police and firefighters better than what she perceives the politics of teacher groups to be. She is trying to pick winners and losers under the Constitution.

Teachers run the gamut politically. Many are Democrats, and many others are Republicans and independents who are equally upset over Huffman and NFIB’s legislation. At least two Republican educators told Huffman how upset they were during Monday’s hearing.

Moreover, the only “business issues” in which educators get involved are issues — such as school funding and teaching practices – that are crucial to the future success of Texas. They also are critical to the continued success of all those NFIB members who now are attacking educators and other public employees, who also happen to be their customers.

What kind of business sense is that?




SBOE member issues very silly, meaningless defense of DeVos


Many people who supported the unfit Betsy DeVos for education secretary have offered weak rationalizations, but the silliest statement in support of her that I have seen came from State Board of Education member David Bradley of Beaumont.

Bradley told the Beaumont Enterprise this week that criticism of DeVos’ lack of public education experience was irrelevant and that opponents were “simply trying to be obstructionists.”

“I don’t think having worked in public education is a qualification any more than being dead to work on the Texas Funeral (Service Commission), or being an alcoholic to be on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission,” Bradley said.

Bradley should know something about being an obstructionist. His critics would say he has spent much of his long tenure on the state board being an obstructionist to the best educational offerings for Texas school children.

If he was trying to be flippant with the rest of his statement, he flipped it too far. The relevant point is that Betsy DeVos is alive and presumably healthy and in a position to do a lot of damage to public schools and student opportunities.

If you want to see Bradley’s quote for yourself, check the 13th and 14th paragraphs of the story at this link:

DeVos’ confirmation spurs anti-voucher fight in Texas


Some of the more avid Texas supporters of Betsy DeVos, the most unqualified person ever to become U.S. Secretary of Education, include Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – who consistently put ideology over what’s best for public school children – and Randan Steinhauser.

Steinhauser heads the latest pro-voucher, pro-education savings accounts, pro-school privatization interest group in Texas. She used to work for DeVos in Washington at the American Federation for Children , a national pro-privatization organization. Now she is working hand-in-hand with Patrick and Abbott in Texas to weaken our public schools and turn our centers of learning and opportunity for all children into profit centers for a handful of education profiteers.

In a comment quoted in the Rivard Report, Steinhauser blamed “outrage” from “teacher’s unions” for the difficult battle DeVos faced in winning Senate confirmation. She was wrong.

Yes, millions of teachers, superintendents and other educators are outraged over DeVos’ blatant lack of qualifications and outright hostility toward public education. But so are millions of parents and other Americans who truly value public schools and the critical role they play in their children’s futures.

Although they certainly helped – and proudly so — teachers alone didn’t overload telephones and clog email in-boxes in U.S. Senate offices. And teachers alone didn’t fight the privatization forces to a 50-50 deadlock in the Senate, where the vice president cast a first-ever vote to break a tie on a Cabinet confirmation.

Texas educators, parents and others who value our public schools too much to allow would-be profiteers to destroy them should be energized by DeVos’ confirmation fight.

Keep contacting your state legislators and demand they vote against vouchers and other school privatization schemes. If you need to, click on the link below and fill in your home address to find out who your state representative and state senator are. Then call or email them and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same. The fight for Texas public schools is far from over.

How Senate leaders plan to reduce school funding


A couple of weeks ago, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson announced the formation of a working group that supposedly will find a “better” way to pay for Texas’ public schools. Don’t hold your breath, though.

If it does anything, the new study group will continue to shortchange public education while increasing the burden on local property taxpayers, who already pay for more than half of public school costs.

If you think my conclusion is unfair and too hastily drawn, consider this. Only a week after announcing the new school funding study, the same Sen. Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed a bill to gradually reduce and abolish within 10 years the business franchise tax, a major source of school funding. This plan, of course, also has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Since Nelson has announced no replacement for the franchise tax, its demise would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to pay for the increase in education funding that school children need, even while leaning more heavily on local taxpayers.

Led by Patrick and Nelson, the Senate majority is about squeezing and privatizing public schools, not about finding a more adequate and fairer way to pay for them. Remember, Texas spends about $2,700 less than the national average to educate a child each year, and Patrick, the Senate leader, wants to make that worse by diverting millions in tax dollars for private school vouchers.

The phasing out of the franchise tax – and with it a sizable chunk of school funding – was promptly endorsed by the Texas Association of Business, which apparently figures the Tooth Fairy is going to find a way to help local taxpayers keep educating the state’s future workforce.

When Nelson announced the school finance “study,” – the umpteenth study of school funding to be initiated over the past 30 years – school finance expert Lynn Moak told the Texas Tribune that the main question is “whether they’re trying to reform school finance within existing dollars or looking for possible additional dollars to fund the system.”

Now, it seems the answer to that question is less money for education, not more.

Texas’ school children don’t need another study of school funding. They need Senate leaders who really value public education.