Sen. Don Huffines fears educators, not immigrants


Voter registration is up, and state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas, who has made a political career of attacking public schools and promoting privatization, is worried. He is worried because he knows he has done nothing to generate that much enthusiasm for his re-election, and he has a pro-public education opponent, Nathan Johnson, who is running a very strong campaign against him.

So what does Huffines do? He doesn’t have a legitimate campaign issue. So he borrows a tactic from Donald Trump and lies. He lies about a horde of imaginary undocumented immigrants who have descended upon Dallas and registered to vote. And he calls on a Senate committee to conduct an emergency hearing to help him out by lending a stamp of “authenticity” to his charade.

According to an article on Quorum Report, Huffines said he had heard of “allegations of illegal voting by non-citizens and officials’ failure to adequately respond.”


Undocumented immigrants don’t come to the United States to vote. They come here for economic opportunity or to escape political persecution or crime in their home countries. They want to avoid detection, and trying to vote is a sure-fire way to get caught.

But it is easier for Huffines to promote hysteria and hate against immigrants than it is to defend his own record in the state Senate. Educators should be reminded that it is a record that includes:

# Killing a $1.9 billion increase in public school funding during a special session last year.

# Voting for every private school voucher bill that has come his way.

# Supporting the so-called “bathroom bill” that would have discriminated against vulnerable children in public schools and encouraged bullying.

# Voting for public education budgets that have steadily transferred the lion’s share of school funding to local property taxpayers.

Don Huffines purports to represent state Senate District 16 in Dallas. In truth, he represents an extreme political ideology.

Educators, parents and taxpayers in District 16 who truly care about public schools have a clear choice in this election – Nathan Johnson, an education advocate, school volunteer and community leader. Nathan has been endorsed by TSTA-PAC and, unlike Huffines, isn’t afraid of people voting in large numbers.




Spreading lies about teachers and education funding


It was inevitable, about as inevitable as Donald Trump spewing his next lie. Super-wealthy rightwingers who don’t care about public education, except what they can squeeze from it, have organized a campaign of lies against teachers who have been participating in strikes and other demonstrations against the pitiful state of education funding in their states.

The Guardian published a story this week about a “messaging guide” put together to try to turn public sentiment against the teachers and their cause. According to the Guardian, the rightwingers are trying to portray the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and children.

One of the sponsors of this drivel is the Walton Family Foundation, whose benefactors, the family that brought us Walmart, has enriched itself by under-paying thousands of the low-income parents they now purport to care so much about. Other sponsors include the Koch brothers and the billionaire DeVos family, which, like the Walton Foundation, view public schools as privatization opportunities to be harvested, not pathways to success for the children they pretend to champion.

The DeVos family, of course, includes Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education intent on privatizing every school in sight.

All these people are also very anti-union.

The anti-teacher message developers admit that it is “challenging” to deny the fact that schools in many states are in poor financial shape. That’s because the same people who are now attacking the teachers engineered tax cuts that created the funding crises, and that was their intent. Cut funding from public schools, declare them failures and then move in and privatize them.

In the end, all children, including children from low-income families suffer, and profiteers profit.

This is what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies have been trying to do in Texas for years. They claim to want to help low-income children with vouchers and corporate charters. But they cut state funding for neighborhood public schools, where the vast majority of these children will continue to be educated in overcrowded, under-equipped classrooms. And they force teachers to waste their students’ learning time with preparations for standardized tests.

The privatization people, not coincidentally, are the same people who have been trying to intimidate Texas educators from voting in this year’s elections, and they may be doing the same thing in other states.

Teacher protests are an important step in the fight to save public education from privatization, but the battle ultimately will be won through elections. That is why it is critical that educators turn out in large numbers in this election year and vote for one issue and one issue only – public education.

Vote Education First!



Sponsor of gun law for teachers defeated in Republican primary


One of the seven incumbent legislators unseated in Tuesday’s party primaries was Republican state Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas, the sponsor of the law that allows a limited number of Texas teachers to be trained as “school marshals” and take guns to school. Fewer than 200 districts, primarily rural districts without police departments, are using the program, enacted in 2013 after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut.

Guns apparently didn’t figure in Villalba’s defeat, though, because he was unseated by a hard-right extremist who loves the Second Amendment. But school privatization may have been a factor. Villalba usually tried to straddle the fence on privatization, and that was bad enough. But Lisa Luby Ryan, the new Republican nominee for the District 114 seat in north Dallas, is a potential nightmare for public schools and educators.

She was supported by ultra-conservative groups, including the Texas Home School Coalition Association and Empower Texans, the campaign dirty trickster group founded by a wealthy voucher advocate and private school founder in West Texas.

Fortunately, this district is a swing district that will be in play politically in November, so voters will have a choice. The Democratic nominee, John Turner, will be a strong advocate for public schools, not privatization. The son of former congressman and state senator Jim Turner, John is an attorney who has represented school districts seeking more state funding for public schools and has been endorsed by TSTA-PAC.



It’s a war; refuting the school privatization lies


The Atlantic recently published a story about the bum rap that school privatization advocates continue to give public education. The article, linked below, is well-worth taking the time to read, although I believe the headline misses the boat, which I will explain in a bit.

The story refutes the lies in the privatization narrative, including the falsehoods that traditional public schools don’t perform as well as charters or private schools and that teacher unions protect “bad” teachers.

Author Erika Christakis, a public-school certified teacher, recommends steps that can be taken to improve public schools, including higher teacher pay, forgivable student loans and housing subsidies to enable teachers to afford to live in the increasingly expensive communities in which many public schools are located. Austin ISD immediately comes to mind.

Christakis also urges education policy makers to save and, where necessary, bolster instruction in social studies and civics education. She writes that schools historically have served a key role in “integrating both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry.”

But now, she adds: “At a moment when our media preferences, political affiliation, and cultural tastes seem wider apart than ever, abandoning this amalgamating function is a bona fide threat to our future.”

The article is headlined: “Americans have given up on public schools. That’s a mistake.”

I think that first sentence is wrong because I don’t believe most Americans have given up on our public schools, despite all the noise to the contrary coming from high places. Betsy DeVos, Dan Patrick and other privatization advocates would like us to think Americans have given up on public education because that would play into their deliberate campaign to under-fund public schools, declare them “failures” and privatize them.

Christakis writes that most parents give high marks to their own children’s schools, and that is important to note, but parents worry about other schools. That’s where the smear campaign being waged by the school privateers is having an overblown effect on public opinion. And that’s why we have to keep fighting the privateers and their lies, even as we continue to advocate for more support for our public schools.

The war on public schools