Abbott’s ideology trumps family ties; school kids will pay


Gov. Abbott is still denying the obvious — that the new “sanctuary cities” law that he promoted and signed will result in discrimination against tens of thousands of Hispanics and members of other minority groups who are legal residents of our state. These will include thousands of Texas school children and their families.

The governor and other supporters of this ill-advised law also will continue to deny the inevitability of police profiling, but it will happen. When police are threatened with criminal penalties if they don’t help federal agents enforce immigration laws, and they are allowed to ask the citizenship status of people they detain for minor offenses, including routine traffic stops, some officers are going to start zeroing in on people of color. Most of these people will be citizens or legal residents.

Meanwhile, many school children who were born in the United States of immigrant parents who may or may not be legal residents are going to worry whether their parents are going to be there for them when they get home from class.

Even as he denies the obvious, Abbott also is very touchy about it whenever a reporter raises the issue. His wife, Cecilia, is Hispanic, and Abbott’s Hispanic mother-in-law was widely featured in a TV ad promoting Abbott among Hispanics during his 2014 campaign.

Abbott tried to avoid critical questions by signing the bill via Facebook, not in the usual public ceremony that governors hold to show off their priority pieces of legislation. But a governor can’t hide forever.

In a recent public event, Abbott told reporters he wanted “to make sure that neither she (his wife) nor her family is going to be stopped and detained inappropriately.”

I’m not worried about Abbott’s family, which will largely remain insulated from the repercussions of the new law. I am concerned, though, about the Texas school children who belong to immigrant families and will have little, if any, defense against a discriminatory law motivated by the governor’s narrow ideological politics.

He should be ashamed of himself.



Education, not fear and discrimination, will determine Texas’ future


The president can try to wall off the southern border, the legislative majority can continue depriving minority Texans of their right to vote and the same lawmakers can wax xenophobic over a dozen more bills to outlaw “sanctuary cities,” but one eventuality will remain true and unstoppable.

Within the next generation, the majority of Texans will not look nor think like the president or the majority of today’s legislators. By the middle of this century, most Texans will be Hispanic. The Texas Hispanic population is younger and growing at a faster pace than the non-Hispanic population, and, the debate over immigration to the contrary, most Hispanics in Texas are U.S. citizens. Moreover, the politicians who today are responding to fear and racism in their futile effort to delay the future will be either forgotten or footnotes of derision in history books that will be written by authors who do not look nor think like them.

The fear and discrimination generated by immigration crackdowns and a voter ID law and political district maps that have been declared unconstitutional by federal courts are bad enough. But maybe even worse is what the legislative majority and recent Texas governors have not been doing. They have not been preparing our state – a state in which our children and grandchildren will live – for the same prosperity that most of us, including our political class, has enjoyed.

The key to that future is our public education system, where the majority enrollment already is Hispanic and low-income. That education system remains woefully under-funded and, even under the best scenario, will remain under-funded after the current legislative session ends, casting a lengthening shadow on that rapidly approaching future.

Instead of helping thousands of immigrant children in their neighborhood public schools better prepare themselves for tomorrow, many legislators would rather threaten them with a heightened sense of insecurity over such basic concerns as whether a nine-year-old’s parents will be there when she returns home from school.

Calling that a blow for “national security” is baloney.

Steve Murdock is a former state demographer under Gov. Rick Perry and former U.S. Census Bureau director under President George W. Bush. He has a clearer vision of Texas’ future than any other human, and he has warned repeatedly that our state leaders aren’t preparing for it.

In a series of books and lectures, Murdock has told anyone who will listen that if state government continues to neglect public education funding the Texas economy will be poorer and less competitive by mid-century — and not because the population will be majority Hispanic. It will be because that population won’t be adequately educated. And a sluggish economy will affect the employment and lifestyle prospects of all Texans – regardless of race, ethnicity or political persuasion. Many undoubtedly will have to move elsewhere.

The key to the future begins with education, and that future could be successful, but not as long as the legislative majority continues to waste time neglecting schools in favor of playing to fear and discrimination.





What kids are learning from the election


A presidential election can be a teaching object for young kids, offering a civics lesson in simple terms. Students at the Austin elementary school with which I am most familiar had an election night assignment to color the states on a U.S. map red or blue as returns were reported and the electoral scorecard was tabulated.

Few, if any, of those kids were awake when the election was finally settled, but for a couple of hours some of them felt engaged in a crucial civics exercise. Others were simply bored. One thing they were not supposed to be was afraid of the results.

But across the country many children were fearful as they went to school the next day, according to reports on social media from parents and teachers. Hispanic students of immigrant parents, Muslims, gay kids, even a boy with Autism expressed fear of what a Donald Trump presidency might mean.

Educators — including at least one principal, probably more, in Austin — took extra care to try to assure students that they and their families were safe.

Trump obviously had a strong appeal to Texas and American voters, but his campaign was a horrible example for school children, mocking, defaming or ridiculing, as he did, virtually every minority group in America. Even before Election Day, there were reports of increased bullying and racist comments among school kids mimicking his style.

Trump’s victory speech was conciliatory, much more gracious than his campaign, as he began the transition, we hope, to becoming presidential.

It remains to be seen what he will do about his campaign pledges to build a wall on the southern border, round up undocumented immigrants and crack down on Muslim refugees trying to enter the country.

Texas school kids and their parents will be waiting, and many will be apprehensive. More than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school children are Hispanic, and many are legal citizens but the children and grandchildren of undocumented immigrants. Many other Texas children are Muslims. Who can blame them if they are wondering who they will find at home at the end of the school day?

I am not sure I believe in anyone’s poll anymore. But according to exit polling conducted for the Associated Press, more than 7 in 10 Texas voters, including many who voted for Trump, believe that immigrants working in the United States illegally should be given the chance to apply for legal status and not be deported.

Trump should consider that a civics lesson and take it to heart.





The gift of free public schools for all comers


I long have thought the pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag is technically wrong. I mean that part about our state being “indivisible.” The congressional resolution under which Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845 provides that Texas, if it chooses, can divide itself into as many as five states, although that never will happen.

Shanna Peeples – a high school English teacher and TSTA member from Amarillo who also is the new National Teacher of the Year – has a different take on what the word “indivisible” means in the pledge, at least what it means for our public schools. And, I like her interpretation.

In a speech to TSTA’s House of Delegates meeting a few weeks ago in Frisco, Shanna said, “We don’t separate people into groups that are more deserving than others.”

That means Texas’ public schools, as required by the state constitution, offer free educations to all children, regardless of income, ability, race, native language or citizenship. As we often say at TSTA, we don’t have standardized kids in our classrooms.

But we do have thousands of dedicated teachers and other school employees who are making a difference in children’s lives every day, despite under-funding, counterproductive privatization experiments and other obstacles erected by some policymakers in Washington and Austin who have long since forgotten what the inside of a classroom looks like and are sadly out of touch with students’ needs.

Shanna Peeples is one of those dedicated professionals and will be recognized by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House tomorrow.

Shanna teaches at Palo Duro High School, where the vast majority of students live in poverty and many are immigrants from such diverse countries as Iraq, Cuba, Burma, Somalia and Ethiopia. Many have suffered trauma from wars in their home countries.

While some legislators in Austin have been denying the reality of a more-diverse Texas future by trying to erect more barriers to these children, Shanna and thousands of other Texas educators have been working to enhance that future by making a positive difference in all of their students’ lives –from whatever background or ability level.

Our public school system is “our culture’s greatest gift to the world,” Shanna told her TSTA colleagues, all of whom are working to keep it that way.