Jerry Patterson

Campaigning for an education apocalypse


After observing the race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor teeter ever more precariously over the abyss on the right edge of the flat Earth, I am surprised that at least one of the four contenders hasn’t gone to court to officially change his ballot name to Attila.

The latest chapter, which unfolded last night in a televised debate from Dallas, made it crystal clear – as if we didn’t know already – that the needs and realities of public schools, students and teachers are merely an afterthought— or worse — for these guys.

The incumbent, David Dewhurst, already was on record asserting that Texas teachers are paid a “very fair salary,” despite the fact that teacher pay in Texas lags more than $8,000 behind the national average. If he and his GOP opponents get their way, the gap will worsen, teachers will pay even more than the $700 they now pay, on average, out of their own pockets each year for classroom supplies and their classes will get larger.

Dan Patrick, the self-styled “educational evangelist,” in truth would plunder neighborhood schools – and most Texas children – of financial resources to line the pockets of private schools and private charter operators for the benefit of a handful of mostly cherry-picked students.

Judging from the debate and general campaign rhetoric, nothing much separates Dewhurst, Patrick and the other two GOP contenders – Jerry Patterson and Todd Staples – from each other. And, that is bad news for public education.

All four committed or recommitted last night to teaching creationism in Texas schools, an idea struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 because it “impermissibly endorses religion.”

These four candidates are running for the second highest office in Texas, folks, an office with tremendous influence over legislation. Candidates for that office should be promoting investment in a public education system that will be the key to Texas’ future in the 21st century, not endorsing ideological detours or schemes to plunder neighborhood classrooms.

Instead of sounding like serious candidates for high office, these guys, as my TSTA colleague, Ed Martin notes, sound more like the “Four Horsemen of the Republican Apocalypse.”… An apocalypse for public education, in the destructive, not revelatory, sense.

Should our schools be free-fire zones?


Gov. Rick Perry’s initial idea for preventing more school shootings would be as ineffective as it was predictable. Let teachers and school administrators with concealed handgun licenses bring their pistols to school, he told a tea party meeting in North Texas yesterday.

Do we really want more guns – even legally carried ones – on our school campuses, folks? Do we want our schools to become free-fire zones?

Even if some people do, how many teachers or principals armed with a pistol would be able to stop a suicidal shooter with a rapid-fire, semi-automatic assault weapon? Sure, you can argue that the biblical David, armed with a mere slingshot, felled the more heavily armed giant, Goliath. But David had much better odds than the average teacher would have against a weapon of war.

Some teachers and principals understandably may feel more secure with a loaded pistol within easy reach, but we don’t want our children caught in a cross-fire. As a society, we have to do better than that. Unfortunately, though, the lead is not going to come from Austin.

Not only is Texas a state with a strong gun culture and politics to match, but the governor personally is a strong gun enthusiast who likely will continue to pander to the gun lobby and dance around the issue of school safety instead of dramatically changing his viewpoint. And, the Legislature is loaded with like-minded individuals.

On Dec. 12, only two days before the gunman walked into the Shady Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Perry told the Washington Times that his favorite gun was a military-style, rapid-fire rifle that he likes to take to a target practice range. “For me, it’s really relaxing,” he said.

Click on The Dallas Morning News link below for a photo of the weapon and imagine how much carnage it could inflict if it ever fell into the wrong hands. The governor may use it for target practice, but that is not what it was designed for, and weapons just like it are far too easy to obtain. Guns in the wrong hands DO kill people, and assault rifles in the wrong hands can kill a lot of people, even children, very quickly, as the recent headlines and video clips have reminded us.

Another gun enthusiast, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2014, has called for arming more campus police and security officers. But Patterson, who sponsored the right-to-carry law as a state senator several years ago, hasn’t proposed how to pay for the additional security. Remember, the governor and the legislative majority slashed $5.4 billion from school district budgets last year.

In his speech to the tea party group, the governor raised a valid issue by suggesting the state take a closer look at how it is addressing mental health issues, which obviously was a factor in the Connecticut shootings.

But, as Austin’s KXAN-TV pointed out in a report last night, Texas ranks dead last among the states (as of June 2011) in per capita funding for mental health services. Texas spends $36 per capita, way below the national average of $109. And, the governor and the legislative majority cut mental health funding last session, mainly to please the tea partiers.

Even as we continue to mourn the 20 young children and the adults who died in the senseless Sandy Hook tragedy, it is natural to start looking for ways to prevent similar tragedies in the future. But, so far, Texas’ leadership has been slow to propose meaningful solutions.