Criminal charges aside, Paxton bad news for Texas schools


I doubt that most Texans, including thousands of people who voted for him, could have told you the name of the state attorney general before he was indicted on securities fraud charges. Now, Ken Paxton has a higher public profile and a mugshot to boot. I am not going to prejudge the criminal case against him because he is entitled to his day in court. But even before his notoriety he was bad news for public education and still is.

As a legislator in 2011, Paxton voted for the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts that cost many educators their jobs, forced overcrowding of many classrooms and still plague many school districts. And, as attorney general, he avidly defended a school funding system that a state judge has declared inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional.

In a recent brief urging the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling, Paxton criticized the “experts and interest groups” (i.e. educators) who are trying to win a “public education system more to their liking.” Actually, the 600 school districts that sued the state are simply trying to win a final court ruling that orders the legislative majority to fulfill its constitutional duty to the school children of Texas.

Largely a political unknown even to Republican primary voters, Paxton won the GOP nomination last year by waving his anti-abortion credentials and claiming to be more righteous (no fooling) than his opponents. Then after conducting a low-profile general election campaign, he was swept into office on a strong Republican vote.

TSTA endorsed attorney Sam Houston, his Democratic opponent.



For educators, Kansas isn’t Kansas anymore


Regardless of where you may teach, be grateful that you aren’t trying to teach in Kansas. If you are, you have my sympathy because even Dorothy and Toto wouldn’t recognize the place anymore, following the devastation to public education wrought by Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative cronies.

It is so bad, according to the Washington Post item linked below, that teachers “can’t hotfoot it out of Kansas fast enough.”

Kansas teachers are among the lowest paid in the country – lower, on average, than Texas. They have been suffering through state budget cuts that seemingly won’t stop and are losing job protections. The result is a large teacher shortage that is expected to get worse. Several thousand Kansas teachers have either left the profession or taken their talents to other states, including neighboring Missouri.

Rather than adequately fund public education, Gov. Brownback and the Legislature cut taxes in 2012, and here are some of the things that have happened since:

# A state court declared part of Kansas’ school funding system unconstitutional.

# Some Kansas school districts ran out of money and had to end the school year early last spring.

# The Kansas Board of Education gave six school districts, including two of the state’s largest, the authority to hire unlicensed teachers. The board acted under a program for “innovative districts” created by the Kansas Legislature in 2013. It was based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing organization promoting efforts throughout the country (including Texas) to under-fund public schools, declare them failures and then privatize them.

Brownback obviously is the kind of governor that ALEC likes. He reacted to all the problems by proposing another cut in per-pupil general school aid.

The mess in Kansas kind of makes me wonder why Brownback, a Republican, doesn’t run for president. He would be a disaster in the White House, but he would be right at home among a bunch of other anti-government, anti-public education candidates running for the GOP nomination.


Spinning a bad education budget


As are many of his colleagues, state Rep. Scott Sanford of McKinney, one of the tea party darlings undermining public education, already is preparing for next spring’s Republican primary, where he will be courting the votes of ultra-conservative, anti-government constituents for a third term in the statehouse.

So he sent out an email this week bragging about his role in passing a “conservative, responsible state budget.”

The budget certainly is “conservative,” but it is far from “responsible.” While leaving billions of tax dollars unspent, it continues to under-fund public education, higher education, health care and a host of other state services. Many school districts will have less money to spend per student during the upcoming school year than they did five years ago.

In his email, Sanford spews bureaucratic talk about growth rates and spending caps without making it clear that education and other critical programs could have been more adequately funded without raising anyone’s taxes.

Sanford won’t be the only member of the legislative majority who will be bragging about their budgetary skills and priorities during next year’s campaign season. Voters who may be tempted to believe their line of baloney should take a look at all the “temporary” portable buildings being erected at their neighborhood schools or, after the new school year begins, ask a parent how crowded their children’s classrooms are. They also can ask a teacher how much he or she will be spending from a modest paycheck on classroom supplies.


Spreading vouchers to suburbia


Remember when all those voucher advocates used to shed crocodile tears over the plight of low-income children “trapped in (allegedly) failing schools”? Remember their claims that they were trying to help only inner-city kids with tax dollars for private school tuition? Well, at least one major voucher proponent on a national scale finally has dropped the pretense and admitted that it wants taxpayers to provide vouchers for well-heeled kids in suburbia as well.

This voucher promoter is the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC), which is behind dozens of pieces of anti-public education, anti-consumer, anti-middle class legislation considered by state legislators throughout the country.

As Jonas Persson, a writer at the Center for Media and Democracy, points out in the article linked below, “School vouchers were never about helping poor, at-risk or minority students.” But that was a “useful fiction” for voucher advocates for years. Now, they are beginning to be more open. Here in Texas, you may recall, state Sen. Donna Campbell had an open-ended voucher bill that died during last spring’s legislative session.

According to one estimate cited in this article, vouchers and voucher-like tax-credit schemes already steal $1.5 billion a year in tax money from public schools throughout the country. And, voucher advocates are hoping to increase that to $5 billion a year by 2020 – to benefit for-profit and religious schools at the expense of public, neighborhood schools were most children, especially kids from poor families, will continue to be educated.

Wisconsin, where anti-educator presidential candidate Scott Walker is governor, already is “well on its way towards limitless voucher schools,” the article notes.

“Problems in Suburbia: Why Middle-Class Students Need School Choice, Digital Learning and Better Options” was the title of a presentation during the ALEC meeting this week in San Diego. ALEC also has revised the talking points for its “model” voucher bills to claim, another other things, that “all children from low- and middle-income families should receive public support for their education regardless of whether they are attending a public or private school.”



  • Calendar

    August 2015
    M T W T F S S
    « Jul