Today, Gov. Rick Perry was quoted as saying in Iowa that he was running for president so he could “take a wrecking ball to Washington.” Given the fact that Perry’s many “oops” moments have made his campaign little more than the butt of latenight TV jokes, many people doubt his ability to do much of anything, much less tear apart the federal government.
It would be a mistake, however, to sell Perry short in the “wrecking” business. One need only look at the shambles he has made of state government, which has become a conduit for rewarding political benefactors with lucrative, taxpayerfunded contracts. And, he has deliberately starved Texas’ public schools to the point that the state’s future economy (and the financial wellbeing of the next generation of Texans) is at risk.
Rarely does a week go by without another media report of an insider state government deal benefitting a group of Perry’s buddies. The latest, reported in the Austin AmericanStatesman today, notes that Perry’s appointees on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ignored the opposition of every state and local official in Montgomery County to give an industrial waste injection well permit in the county to a company stocked with Perry friends and political donors. Those local officials, all Republicans like Perry, believe the well could harm the local water supply. But Perry chose to help those he can tap for money.
However, Perry didn’t mind reversing the flow of state funds to local schools. Some 300 or so school districts already have sued the state over education funding in the wake of the $5.4 billion in budget cuts that Perry and the legislative majority inflicted on Texas’ school children. Now, many more districts are getting ready to drop a similar lawsuit on the state. According to Quorum Report, the second suit will include many of the state’s largest school districts as plaintiffs. By the time the second case is filed, as many as one in three of Texas’ public school students may be represented in the litigation, a shameful indictment of Perry’s failed leadership at home.
The lawyers in the two school finance suits may vary their legal arguments, but the bottom line will be the same: state government under Rick Perry already has applied a “wrecking ball” to public schools throughout the state.