There are more, but we have to stop somewhere, and I don’t want to be accused of piling on. The governor might consider it treasonously unTexan.
# Starving public education – He recently signed a twoyear state budget that for the first time during his lifetime (more than 60 years) fails to fully fund Texas’ school finance formulas, including anticipated enrollment growth. The budget cuts $4 billion from district formulas and another $1.4 billion in education discretionary grants for programs such as fullday prekindergarten. Meanwhile, at Perry’s insistence, the Legislature left $6.5 billion of the taxpayers’ money unspent in the emergency Rainy Day Fund. Average teacher pay in Texas ($48,261 for the 200910 school year) ranks 31st in the country, about $7,000 below the national average, and perstudent spending on public education ranks in the bottom third among the states.
# Flunking math – His 2006 school property tax cuts left an annual $4.5 billion shortage in the state education budget because he didn’t fully pay for them. That shortfall accounted for more than onethird of the total revenue shortfall that plagued the Texas Legislature in 2011.
# All hair and no cattle – He talks a good game of economic development and job creation, but underfunded public schools and universities undermine Texas’ ability to adequately prepare young people for the jobs that will make or break the state’s future. If Perry’s neglect of education isn’t reversed, employers with the higherpaying jobs will take their opportunities – Texas’ socalled “miracle” to other states.
# Payforplay governor – While school districts and public universities struggle with their budgets and educators worry about more job cuts, Perry has doled out millions of taxpayer dollars to private startup companies belonging to some of his highdollar political contributors.
# Twilight Zoner – He pretends that Texas’ dropout rate – one of the state’s most pressing social and economic problems – is much lower than the onethird or so that it is. And, a few years ago, he vetoed a bipartisan prekindergarten bill that would have helped encourage many youngsters to stay in school.
# History class clown – Two of his former State Board of Education chairs were leaders of the rightwing clique that ravaged social studies curriculum standards, much to the delight of latenight TV comedians. Interjecting their own religious and political beliefs, the rightwingers tried to rewrite history, downplaying the roles of blacks and Hispanics, elevating Confederacy President Jefferson Davis and trying to demote Thomas Jefferson. Perry refused to “second guess” their antics.
# 19th Century man – Perry’s refusal to repudiate secession at an antigovernment Tea Party rally also prompted national ridicule, and his erroneous claim that Texas had the right to secede demonstrated an alarming lapse in his own knowledge of Texas and American history.
# Buckpasser – The tuition deregulation law, which he signed several years ago, is passing an increasing amount of higher education costs to Texas students and their families and is pricing more and more young people out of college.
# Bureaucratic meddler – He tried a few years ago to impose a poorly conceived, onesizefitsall executive order that 65 percent of a school district’s budget be spent on classroom instruction. The Legislature axed it. He also has led efforts to impose a merit pay plan on teachers, despite evidence that such plans waste taxpayer dollars.
# Bahama beachcomber – Not too many years ago, he invited two of the biggest enemies of public education – private school voucher advocate James Leininger and antigovernment guru Grover Norquist – to join him in the Bahamas for a few days of sand, surf and stiffing the public schools. Leininger, a San Antonio businessman, is a major Perry political contributor. Small wonder the governor supports private school vouchers.
That’s Rick Perry’s education record, folks. Unfortunately, the people who tend to dominate the Republican nominating process prefer meaningless ideological rhetoric.