Month: <span>October 2018</span>

Ted Cruz and Betsy DeVos are school privatization partners


One thing is certain about whatever Ted Cruz may claim he has “accomplished” for public education during his time in the U.S. Senate: educators and school children can’t afford more of the same.

First, he voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the most ill-informed, under-qualified secretary of education in the history of the department. Had Cruz cared enough about public schools and educators and voted against her, DeVos wouldn’t be actively trying to lay waste to public education today. Remember, the Senate confirmation vote was 50-50, and Vice President Pence broke the tie in favor of DeVos.

Cruz clearly is on DeVos’ school privatization program. Within a year after voting for her, Cruz succeeded in doing what Dan Patrick has failed to do in Texas. He won congressional  approval of a private school voucher program. It was in the form of an amendment to President Trump’s tax bill. Cruz’s amendment expands the tax-exempt 529 college savings account to cover as much as $10,000 a year in tuition or expenses for elementary and secondary students in religious or other private schools.

This tax break will benefit mainly upper-income families and some in the middle. But it will ignore low-income parents and increase the inequities in educational opportunities, while reducing the amount of federal aid available for educating low-income and disabled children. Cruz also attempted to give the same vouchers to parents who homeschool their children, but that part of his amendment was struck on a procedural issue.

Now, Cruz is back in Texas in the closing days of what he hopes is a reelection campaign, and he is promoting charter schools. He will be talking later today to the Texas Charter Schools conference in Houston. Technically, charters are public schools because they receive our tax dollars. But corporate-style charter chains, which have begun to dominate the charter landscape, are first cousins to private schools, and they are taking millions of tax dollars from under-funded public school districts.

Cruz was scheduled to discuss “his perspective on the federal role in education, his education priorities, and how those priorities would impact Texas.”

Cruz’s perspective on public education is the same as Betsy DeVos’and Dan Patrick’s – under-fund it and then privatize it. TSTA is supporting Beto O’Rourke in the Senate race. O’Rourke will boost public education, not tear it down.



You have demonstrated and tweeted for education, but nothing will change if you don’t vote


You are an educator. All year you have been reading stories about underpaid and under-appreciated educators. You have been watching video clips of angry teachers marching, demonstrating and walking off their jobs to protest low pay and underfunded classrooms and tell politicians they are not going to take it anymore.

You have applauded their courage and empathized with their plight. You have tweeted your own outrage and spent hours expressing your frustration on social media. You have shared your own stories about the extra jobs you have been forced to take to meet family budgets. Maybe you have attended pro-education rallies in your own communities. And you have registered to vote.

You have been engaged, and that is great. But if that is all you do, nothing, absolutely nothing, will change.

Now, you need to vote. You need to vote in large numbers and vote for candidates who truly support public schools and the people who teach and work in them, people like you. You, of course, have a right to vote for whomever you want and for any issue of your choosing, but if you don’t make education your No. 1 issue and vote for legitimate, pro-public education candidates, nothing will change.

You will continue to be underpaid, you will continue taking extra jobs during the school year and you will continue to be angry, frustrated and feeling used.

Education is your livelihood, but maybe another issue is your main political concern. Maybe it is immigration, an issue over which President Trump and many anti-education candidates continue to fan the flames of fear and racism, often with half-truths and lies. Their goal is to confuse and deceive.

I got a campaign flyer from one of those anti-education candidates the other day, spreading fear about immigration but saying not a word about public schools or the needs of educators and students. This candidate was taking the votes of educators for granted or hoping educators would be so discouraged they would not bother to vote.

You may find another issue competing for your vote. But remember this. Per-pupil education spending in Texas is $2,300 per year less than the national average, and teacher pay is $7,300 below the national average. Active educators and retirees struggle with rising health care costs. Many classrooms are overcrowded and under-equipped, students take too many standardized tests, and political ideologues are still trying to rewrite the history and science our kids are taught. None of this will change if Texas educators don’t vote in large numbers and in the best interests of their professions and their students, and that means voting for candidates who make education a priority.

Voting turnout in Texas traditionally has been low, and if educators don’t do their part to change that, anti-public education policies won’t change. You can march, demonstrate and tweet for education all you want, but if you don’t vote for education, you can’t finish the job. Voting is what politicians respect – and fear. Without it, they will keep taking educators for granted.

TSTA-PAC has endorsed candidates of both parties throughout the state on their stands and/or records on education alone. To find out which candidates TSTA has endorsed on your ballot, go to the link below, click on “Customized Ballot” and fill in your home address. Marching, demonstrating and tweeting your outrage may make you feel better. But voting is the only really effective political activity you can perform.




Who pays a bigger price for public service? Judges or teachers?


Texas teachers, it is time to cue in some sad music for Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who is complaining that he is underpaid. “Public service…should not be public servitude,” he told a legislative committee, according to an item in Quorum Report.

Pay for Texas Supreme Court members, after all, ranks only 29th among justices on the highest state courts around the country, the same national ranking as average teacher pay in Texas.

Before anyone gets carried away with that comparison, though, please know that Hecht’s annual salary is about $168,000, according to the National Center for State Courts. It may even be a little more because he is chief justice. That is more than three times the average teacher pay in Texas of $53,167.

Hecht is seeking raises for all state judges, but even state district court judges, the main trial judges in Texas, make about $149,000 a year. Servitude, indeed.

Hecht may feel underpaid compared to many lawyers in the private sector, but I doubt that the chief justice or any of his robed colleagues are spending their weekends tutoring students, waiting tables or taking the assortment of other extra jobs that about 40 percent of Texas teachers are taking during this school year to make ends meet for their families.

Sure, judges have very important responsibilities, but they are no less crucial than the work that teachers perform every day. Without the educational services that teachers provide, we, of course, wouldn’t have judges, lawyers, doctors, dentists, scientists, CEOs, etc. etc.—or not very good ones anyway.

Texas legislators need to pay teachers more and provide more classroom resources for their students before they start raising judges’ pay. One reason the legislative majority continues to under-pay teachers and under-fund public education is because the Texas Supreme Court, under Hecht, refused to strike down our lousy school finance system a couple of years ago and force the Legislature to improve it.

The justices admitted the funding system was awful, but they let the Legislature off the hook, and teachers and their students are still paying the consequences.

Still want to play some sad music for Chief Justice Hecht? I didn’t think so.




Paxton trying to remove health care from millions of educators and other Americans


The current crop of state leaders gives educators a lot of bad choices on this year’s election ballot, but one of the worst, especially for retired educators and everyone one else who values their health care, is Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Paxton, who was slapped with a criminal indictment for securities fraud shortly after taking office, has spent most of his term as the state’s chief lawyer avoiding a trial and a possible prison sentence. But he has found time to promote policies that are hurtful to educators and other everyday Texans, even as he hypocritically portrays himself as a champion of Christian values.

Perhaps his worst offense though is his effort to deprive millions of Texans and other Americans of middle-class, modest means of basic health care coverage. That is a potential end result of a lawsuit that Paxton has filed, using our tax dollars, against the federal government in still another effort to kill the Affordable Care Act.

The lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, was filed earlier this year by 20 states, and Paxton is the lead lawyer. If the suit is successful, all the protections of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if you prefer, would be invalidated, including the provision that forbids insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If Paxton is successful in destroying that consumer protection, insurance companies could resume their previous practice of charging sick people higher premiums for health coverage or denying them coverage altogether. Older Americans would be hit the hardest, but anybody who had ever suffered a heart attack or suffered from a chronic condition such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure or whatever would be affected.

To make matters worse, the Trump administration is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act against Paxton’s suit.

“It is time that Americans are finally free from the stranglehold of Obamacare, once and for all,” Paxton said when the suit was filed.

Actually, it is time for Texans to be free of the callous piety and anti-family, anti-democratic values of Ken Paxton. Earlier this year, Paxton also misused his office to suggest falsely that it was illegal for educators to support and campaign for candidates for the Legislature and other elected offices.

Paxton is entitled to due process and his day in court, which he continues to avoid. The state of Texas also is entitled to its day in court, and every American is entitled to affordable health care.

The honorable thing for Paxton to do would be to quietly leave office and get his own legal affairs in order. But since he doesn’t plan to do that, since he intends to stay in office on straight-ticket Republican votes, the sensible thing for educators and every other Texan – Democrat, Republican or independent — who values education, health care and other important public services is to show Paxton the door on Election Day.

You can do that by voting for Paxton’s opponent, Justin Nelson. Nelson wants to serve the people of Texas, not make their lives more difficult.

Twenty U.S. states target protections for pre-existing health conditions

Paxton surrenders in securities fraud indictment