Wednesday, October 29, 2014


There is ample evidence the claims of our current Governor, Attorney General and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee about education are absolutely not true.  Governor Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick claim slashing funds for public education by 5 billion dollars did not harm education in Texas.  In fact they claim Texas actually had an increase in funding in the past two legislative sessions.

Between the miserliness of our state-wide elected leaders and misplaced concern by our State Board of Education, children’s education in Texas is being shortchanged.  There is ample evidence of Texas children falling behind the nation and the world in educational excellence.

Recently, both The Dallas Morning News and Austin American Statesman reported the findings of the National College Board concerning SAT scores to be alarming. Texas students’ scores on the SAT, a recognized college entrance exam, dropped to the second lowest point in two decades.  The national average of an adequate score was 42.6%.  The state score recently was 33.9%.  For a long time responsible educators have widely viewed the SAT scores as one of the most valuable measures of whether or not students are receiving quality education prior to college entrance.

The massive slashing of public education funds by the state Legislature resulted in the loss of 11,000 teachers, many of whom left the profession.  Balancing the budget on the backs of Texas’ school children not only was callous, but showed a woeful lack of vision for the future.  Five billion dollars was slashed from public education while we had nine billion in a bank account for Texas emergencies.  If continuing to furnish a decent education to our children is not an emergency, I would like to hear what is.

One of the favorite standard sayings of right-wing conservatives is that you can’t fix education by throwing money at it.  My immediate response is how do you know?  We have never tried. 

While I agree money in order to deliver a decent education is not the only factor, quality education cannot be delivered without it.  For about fifteen years Republican conservatives in the state Legislature have maintained that gimmicks and quirks could fix education and deliver quality schooling which would benefit future economic growth and prosperity for Texans.  It obviously has not proven true.  

Unfortunately, our State Board continues to be more preoccupied with politics, religion, and their own private agendas–even in choosing textbooks–than in delivering a quality product for future generations of Texans.  The Republican-dominated Board has failed miserably to be a force for advocating quality education and has never advocated adequate funding.  A judge in Austin has recently ruled the level of funding for public education has reached the point of making the entire system unconstitutional.  This is not a federal mandate, but a requirement of Texas’ own constitution put in place by our forefathers who had the vision to revere education.

If you think money for teachers is not that important, consider a study done in the mid-nineties by the Senate Education Committee staff.  A broad range of school districts–small, large, rural, urban– were surveyed, personally contacting the top ten graduates from a high school in each type of district.  They were questioned as to whether or not they would consider a career in teaching.  Fewer than 1 in 10 said they would even consider it, primarily because their options for better pay lay elsewhere.  

And consider the findings of the Perot Committee.  After a nationwide study it became very evident that class size had a dramatic impact on the learning of students being taught.  Even though it was determined a 15:1 teacher/pupil ratio was ideal, money required a compromise of 22:1 as a teacher/pupil ratio to be mandated by Texas.  Even the compromise number has been further compromised by politicians who care more about bragging about "no new taxes" than ensuring a bright future for the Texas economy and our children.  

If we Texans continue to elect those who are guilty of robbing our future generations of decent educational opportunities, we will reap what we sow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Are You a Sucker?

If you work with your hands by the hour and consider yourself a member of the working middle class, and you vote Republican, you are a sucker. The Republican Party in Texas has done much harm to working class Texans.

Unfortunately, too many of my working friends have bought into the hypocritical, Republican rhetoric.  Their party line is: We are more responsible financially, keep you taxes low, keep illegal aliens from being paid for not working and stealing your jobs, and hold the line on any new taxes.

When Democrats last controlled the State Legislature, Texas had no indebtedness.  In fact our Constitution prevented borrowing money for which taxpayers would be responsible in coming years.  We now owe over 20 billion dollars just for roads mainly because Republican legislators refused to assume the responsibility of paying as we build new roads.

If you work for a living, consider the following things:

1. Texas leads the nation in workplace deaths, yet it has no safety program.

2. Although workers in Texas have the greatest exposure to injury or death, legislators have steadfastly refused to make workers’ compensation mandatory for Texas employers.

3. Caving in to big money lobbyists, the State Legislature has created a system of workers’ compensation whereby insurance companies and employers are almost always represented by lawyers; and yet it is difficult, if not impossible, for an injured worker to find legal representation. The system designed by big money interest in Texas prevents, in most cases, an attorney representing an injured worker from receiving a fee.

4. CEOs in Texas are among the highest paid corporate managers in the United States.  Several CEOs of companies in Texas receive over $50 million per year as their salary; while workers in Texas receive an average of $11,000 a year.  Texas leads the nation in lowest paid workforce.

5. The tax policy in Texas is among the most regressive in the United States.  While we boast of having no state income tax, our sales tax is near the top; our property tax on our homes is in the top five. Almost every form of license or permit is taxed; the ability to file for a divorce in Texas bears one of the heaviest taxes around.  There is even a tax on traffic fines.  The great tax policy fostered by Republican legislators gives oil companies a rebate, gives big corporations a tax break, and taxes country clubs at a lesser rate than your home is taxed.

If you think this is a policy which helps you as a working man or woman, think again.  Don’t be a sucker.