Saturday, March 12, 2011

Texas Leadership is Out of Touch...We Must Not Be Silent!

My highlights from an article published on the San Antonio Express-News website.
  • Gov. Rick Perry has some nerve to suggest that in the face of the state's fiscal crisis, any public school district wants to lay off teachers
  • Fair enough. Budget-cutting decisions by school districts are being made by local communities. What Perry always conveniently leaves out of the picture is the gun he put to their heads. The line from the governor to likely teacher layoffs is direct and starts with the work five years ago of Perry's Texas Tax Reform Commission.
  • Perry was looking for headlines, not push-back. And push-back was what Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn tried to give just one month after Perry and Sharp crowed about their plan. In a strongly worded letter, Strayhorn warned Perry that he was directing lawmakers to “write the largest hot check in Texas history.” Specifically, her analysis showed the scheme was $23 billion short of what was needed to cover the promised property tax cuts over the next five years.
  • Countless news accounts have replayed the reckless legislative act. So it's astounding that Perry would shun accountability and plow ahead as if voters don't know or don't care.
  • He added insult to injury Wednesday with his assertion that schools have added “a rather extraordinary amount” of nonclassroom employees and his suggestion that cuts should start there because they don't affect the classroom.
  • Recent research by Moak, Casey and Associates reveals what can only be described as either Perry's ignorance or his deception. The 1-to-1 ratio of teachers to nonteaching staff has held for more than 20 years. Teachers are central to the classroom, of course. But it's troubling that the governor discounts the support provided by others like bus drivers, custodians, curriculum coaches or counselors.
  • Alamo Heights Superintendent Kevin Brown borrowed a metaphor he's heard in testimony before legislative committees to describe the choices that districts are being forced to make.

    “It's like choosing whether you want your heart or your lungs. What kind of decision is that? You want them both!”
If the disconnect between our state's leadership and the realities faced by Texas public schools wasn't obvious before, it is now. I hope my fellow Texans are communicating with their representatives. There is evidence that more moderate Republicans are seeing the light. It's going to take them to make any kind of headway with the current budget crisis and needed school reform.

It's hard not to give up hope in the face of everything that is going on. But please don't. Please make your voice heard. The children of Texas aren't old enough to vote and tell our leaders what is necessary. We need to speak for them. Please contact your legislators and Governor Perry today!

Texas Capitol photo © 2006 Larry D. Moore, used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License. Original photo link: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texas_capitol_day.jpg
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