Month: <span>June 2018</span>

Border cruelty notwithstanding, Abbott remains a loyal Trump soldier


Gov. Greg Abbott finally was shamed into issuing a public statement, calling for an end to the Trump-sponsored child abuse down on the border, but even then he refused to be straight-forward about who was to blame.

The governor wrongly said that only Congress could end the separation of immigrant children from their parents and wrongly tried to blame Democrats for Congress’ failure to act.

Nowhere in his statement, made public yesterday, did Abbott call on President Trump to end what he called the “disgraceful condition.”

Disgraceful? The governor’s history of under-funding public education is “disgraceful.” Removing crying children from their parents and locking them up in tents and cages along the border is cruel, criminal and horrific. Many will feel the effects of their traumatization for years.

Except for brief comments in a TV appearance last weekend, Abbott avoided weighing in on the firestorm in his state until after some members of his own party began to openly wonder where he was. State Rep. Jason Villalba, a Republican from Dallas, criticized the governor’s silence on what Villalba called an “atrocity.”

“I am ashamed that my ‘so-called’ leader is so controlled by his fealty to the president’s myopic vision of America that he is frightened like a feeble squirrel from taking action,” Villalba was quoted in the Austin American-Statesman.

Abbott’s Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, also chimed in.

The same day Abbott finally surfaced, Trump issued his executive order ending the family separation policy. But the president still intends to lock up thousands of immigrant families – parents and children together – whose only alleged “crime” is seeking asylum and a better life.

These immigrant children will still need schooling while they are in Texas, an issue for which Trump inspires little confidence, despite a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that children, regardless of immigration status, can’t be denied educational services.

This is why TSTA has asked the governor and the state education commissioner to begin working now on a plan for educating these kids. Any plan should begin with educators being allowed into detention centers to evaluate the educational needs of the children in custody.

The federal government may or may not have the primary responsibility for providing educational services to detained immigrant children, but as long as Donald Trump is in charge the federal government will need help, lots of it.






Official silence on border cruelty is an endorsement


Some people may be offended by what I am about to say, but I don’t care. Anyone who supports a government policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border is motivated either by racism or an unreasonable fear of people who don’t look and talk like them. And some people would call that kind of fear a form of racism as well.

Moreover, any public official who doesn’t speak out against such a reprehensible policy is endorsing it. To my knowledge, neither Gov. Greg Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said anything publicly about the policy, mostly likely for fear of offending the type of voters mentioned in the first paragraph. Or fear of angering the egomaniac in the White House who daily degrades the office to which he was elected.

Instead, Patrick, in a visit to the State Republican Convention in San Antonio over the weekend, called President Trump “awesome.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the son of an immigrant, has even tried to defend the policy, apparently believing his father, who was welcomed in the United States after fleeing Cuba, was more entitled to sanctuary or a better economic opportunity than the people crossing our southern border now.

In a column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, writer Bud Kennedy noted that the Republican delegates in San Antonio prayed for several things, including morality and decency. But, Kennedy said, they didn’t pray for the 2,000 children who already have been separated from their parents down on the border or for the hundreds of others who will be confined, without their parents, in air-conditioned tents in the desert outside El Paso. So much for morality and decency.

This treatment is cruel and will squarely place Trump, Abbott, Patrick, Cruz, et al on the wrong side of history.

“We’re behind the president because, what’s the alternative?” asked one activist in the party that allegedly promotes “family values.” (But not for everybody.)

Does she want the alternatives in alphabetical order?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to use Christian scripture about honoring the government to defend breaking up families. But, remember, according to Matthew 19:14 in the King James Version of the Bible, Christ said: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me.”

He didn’t say, “Make them suffer.”



Who is going to pay for more school counselors?


In his recently announced school safety plan, Gov. Greg Abbott recognizes the potential importance of school counselors in preventing campus violence. But I wonder if he ever gave school counselors a second thought before the Santa Fe shootings. As governor, he certainly hasn’t made much of an effort to pay for them.

At present, Texas doesn’t even require schools to have counselors. We are one of 20 states that don’t. So, our schools on average have 684 students for every counselor, the fifth highest student-to-counselor ratio in the country, according to information from the American School Counselor Association that was reported in the Texas Tribune.

As the state’s share of public education funding has steadily declined under Abbott, school districts have had to cut corners on counselors and a lot of other important student programs. And many of the counselors who districts have been able to hire are focused on academic issues, including STAAR-crazed student assessments, leaving little time for student behaviorial screening.

Abbott hints that he may recommend the Legislature increase funding for more counselors, but he also may prefer to leave the lion’s share of that big-ticket item to school districts and local property taxpayers. In the meantime, he suggests changes in funding restrictions so districts can “pool (existing) resources to better prioritize students’ emotional and mental health needs.”

If the governor is serious about this proposal, he will come up with a plan for increased state funding to help districts hire the additional thousands of counselors who will be needed for student behavioral as well as academic issues.

After Santa Fe shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott wants to put more counselors in schools. Educators say that’s not enough.


Abbott has a school safety plan. Now what, governor?


Gov. Greg Abbott has a school safety plan. Now what? More specifically, how is he going to pay for it? Or maybe more to the point, who is going to pay for it?

So far, Abbott has identified about $110 million, including federal funds. But his proposals, if adopted and carried out to any meaningful degree, will cost billions, a very pricey proposition for a governor who has been tight-fisted about education spending.

Here are a few of the big ticket items:

# Improving the infrastructure and design of Texas schools to reduce security threats. Texas has more than 8,700 school campuses. Not all of them will be redesigned or “hardened,” as the security people say, but if the governor’s plan is carried out, many will be, and some may get metal detectors at several thousand dollars apiece. This item alone could easily cost many times the $110 million the governor has identified.

# Hiring more professionally trained school security guards, a worthwhile, but recurring expense that many school districts and local taxpayers may not be able to afford.

# Hiring more school counselors to improve school mental health services and identify students who may pose a danger to themselves and others. This idea also can save lives, but thousands of additional counselors are needed across Texas, and, like the security guards, they will have to be paid and receive benefits every year, year in and year out.

There are other costs, including training costs that would be associated with the governor’s proposed expansion of the school marshal program to arm more teachers and school employees, which TSTA opposes.

Twenty of the governor’s proposals, half of the 40 pieces of his plan, will require funding, according to an analysis by the Texas House Democratic Caucus. And so far the governor hasn’t identified a funding source for 13 of those 20.

Phillip Martin, the caucus’ executive director, also pointed out that most of the funding the governor has proposed, $62.1 million, comes from federal grants for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. Congress appropriated some of this money for school safety but also intended for some of the funding to pay for STEM education for girls, minority students and low-income kids.

Abbott needs to begin making plans now for the Legislature to raise substantial amounts of state funding to carry out his plan. School districts and local taxpayers alone simply cannot afford the cost associated with it, partly because the governor and his legislative allies have persisted for years in under-funding public education.

Part of the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s multi-billion-dollar savings account, can be used to help school districts improve the security of their facilities. The Rainy Day Fund is taxpayer money, and Abbott needs to quit hoarding it.

For the longer term, the governor needs to insist that the School Finance Commission come up with an improved, adequate school funding system, not only to improve school security but also to improve learning opportunities for all of Texas’ school kids. And if he is still in office in January, he needs to demand that the Legislature enact it.

Otherwise, the school safety plan will amount to little more than playing politics in an election year.