I can understand why Gov. Rick Perry is getting Texas Monthly’s annual “Bum Steer of the Year” award – no Texas governor has ever gone to such great lengths to earn it – but I can’t understand why the magazine was so hesitant to single out the governor, even to the point of being almost apologetic.
“No one wants to give the governor a Bum Steer. No one wants to poke fun at the elected representative of 25 million Texans,” wrote editor Jake Silverstein. The final straw, he said, was Perry’s gigantic “oops” moment, his inability during a televised debate to remember the third federal agency he would abolish were the country to commit the disastrous act of electing him president.
Although that gaffe is memorable, no one should have been embarrassed by it, except the governor, his inner circle of advisers and the nearsighted campaign contributors who have spent millions of dollars keeping him propped up in the governor’s office for the past 11 years in exchange for government contracts and other political favors.
The “oops” moment is far from the worst sin that Perry has inflicted on the people of Texas during this year alone. The governor’s handling last spring of the state budgetary crisis – which he largely created with an underfunded school finance plan five years ago – should have been more than enough to already have planted him at the top of the “Bum Steer” list.
He insisted upon and signed a state budget that slashed billions of dollars from health care programs of critical importance to millions of Texans and cut $5.4 billion from the public schools. It was the worst public education budget of his lifetime, the first in more than 60 years to fail to pay for enrollment growth. He orchestrated these cuts and other spending reductions while leaving more than $6 billion of the taxpayers’ money unspent in the Rainy Day Fund. And, he had the gall to say it wasn’t his fault if school districts started laying off teachers.
No one wants to give the governor a Bum Steer? Says who?
The Bum Steer, of course, is designed to entertain as much as educate. And, there is absolutely nothing entertaining about the estimated 32,000 school employees who, so far, have lost their jobs because of Perry’s budget cuts – and the thousands more expected to join them next year. Even in the face of adversity, though, teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school employees who still have jobs are doing their best for their students. Many are dealing with larger classes, insufficient supplies and outdated textbooks, but they are creating success stories every day.
While Rick Perry will spend much of the holiday season trying to sell a frozen bill of goods to Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, Texas teachers and other educators – and their students – will be taking some welldeserved time off. So will I, even if my holiday break may not be as wellearned.
I and my colleagues at TSTA wish you a happy season free of bum steers and look forward to seeing you again next year.
-From Texas Monthly