Consider a candidate’s education record, not promises


When Dan Patrick opens his mouth, claiming to support public education, you can be assured that two things will emerge – hot air and an untruth. (Lie is such an ugly word.)

The legitimate, pro-education candidate for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte, has released a new ad, accurately advising that, if you care anything at all about public schools and educational opportunity for every kid, don’t vote for Patrick.

Leticia’s ad (linked below) opens with Patrick talking out of both sides of his mouth during their televised debate last month. On one side of the screen, Patrick is pictured saying, “I’m really concerned about the dropout rate in our inner cities.”

Then on the other side of the screen, he adds, “And so we cut education.”

Patrick remains unabashedly unrepentant for voting in 2011 to slash $5.4 billion from public school budgets. And, he never has expressed any regrets for voting against the entire state budget, including all education funding, in 2013. So, if anyone really thinks Patrick is the least bit concerned about the dropout rate in inner cities – or anywhere else for that matter – you are deluding yourself.

Van de Putte voted against the cuts in 2011 and for the 2013 budget, which partially restored the education funding.

The only education agenda Patrick has is to starve public schools, while siphoning off tax dollars so a small group of cherry-picked students can get private school vouchers or attend corporate charters, where the bottom line is profit, not educational excellence.

If he is elected lieutenant governor and gets his way, the dropout rates in our inner cities – and everywhere else – will rise. And, Patrick will keep shedding crocodile tears.


We can’t survive on budget cuts, as Ebola is making clear


I have written repeatedly about the political shortsightedness involved in making budget cuts to public schools with the resulting loss of teachers’ jobs, larger class sizes and other negative impacts on children’s educations and the state’s future. Now, we have an even more dramatic example of the folly of building political careers on the flimsy foundation of budget-cutting. It is called Ebola.

The deadly disease’s recent arrival in the U.S. already has come perilously close to invading several Texas public schools. And, it is spreading fear and unease in a lot of other places, mainly because health care providers, although dedicated and selfless, have not been nearly as prepared for the disease as officialdom would like to be able to say they are.

Ebola has been ravaging three West African countries, including Liberia, for months, and this outbreak wasn’t the first on that continent. Since airliners are constantly crossing the Atlantic (in both directions), you would think that the folks in charge of safeguarding public health in the United States would have figured out long ago that, sooner or later, someone infected with Ebola would get on an airplane in western Africa and fly to an American city, any American city with an airport. Why were we so unprepared?

Actually, in government laboratories, at least, health officials and scientists have been working for years to try to get ahead of Ebola. Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, told the Huffington Post that NIH has been trying to develop an Ebola vaccine since 2001, but research has been slowed by – guess what? — federal budget cuts.

“Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready,” Collins said.

The lack of sufficient funding obviously has hurt scientists’ efforts to develop a vaccine or cure for the disease. According to the Huffington Post article, the National Institutes of Health budget has remained flat for the past decade, losing 23 percent of its purchasing power after adjusting for inflation. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency preparedness budget has been cut deeply since 2006.

In Texas, the problem is worsened by the fact that millions of people are without health insurance – we continue to lead the country in that callous distinction – and may not be able to afford an Ebola vaccine even if one were developed. And, don’t forget, the powers that be in Austin have shut the door on billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds that could ease that problem.

Budget-cutting is a popular mantra that has helped countless demagogues get elected to office and guide public policy, but ideological mantras are no way to govern, as the mounting Ebola problem is making painfully obvious.

One of those budget-cutting demagogues, Sen. Ted Cruz, who precipitated a federal government shutdown last year, now wants to impose a ban on travelers from West African countries. What we really need is a ban on electing more Ted Cruzes.



Abbott’s insensitivity includes disabled Texans and school kids


With Greg Abbott, hypocrisy and insensitivity to the needs of most Texans, including school children and people with disabilities, go hand in hand. And, that serious flaw is borne out in a statement an Abbott spokesman made to describe Abbott’s legal and political philosophy as attorney general.

The quotation was in an article, published in The Dallas Morning News, about how Abbott has repeatedly gone to court to fight against disabled Texans who have sued state government, seeking accommodations – services or facilities to make their lives more manageable — to which they are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It presents more evidence of how Abbott, who personally benefits from the disability act and won a multimillion-dollar settlement after suing over his own disabling injury years ago, has devoted much of his political career to blocking efforts by other Texans to receive compensation for similar life-altering experiences. This includes his efforts, as a Supreme Court justice and attorney general, to restrict settlements in damage lawsuits and claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How does Abbott’s spokesman, Jerry Strickland, explain the hypocrisy?

“It’s the attorney general’s duty to zealously represent the interests of the state of Texas, and in these cases that meant raising all applicable legal arguments in litigation where Texas was sued in court,” Strickland said.


The state of Texas is more than the official seal on the attorney general’s office wall and more than Abbott’s cadre of well-heeled, financial contributors. The state of Texas also includes disabled Texans who are simply seeking help to which they are entitled, help to assist them with everyday living, services or facilities that in many cases are more modest than the lawsuit settlement that has helped Abbott continue to live his life.

For that matter, the state of Texas also includes millions of school children in hundreds of school districts that have sued the state over inadequate education funding. By continuing to fight that lawsuit, Abbott isn’t representing the best interests of those kids either or, for that matter, the best interests of the state as a whole.

After getting the help he needed, Abbott has been driven by a selfish ideological philosophy that makes him insensitive to the very real needs of many Texans. And, there is no reason to expect him to change, should he be elected governor.


A valuable teaching moment for democracy


Even if the dinosaurs on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturn her order – and that may happen before you read this – U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos provided a valuable teaching moment when she struck down Texas’ voter identification law yesterday. The lesson, of course, is that democracy is fragile and easily abused by people in power who don’t think democracy necessarily should apply to them.

Whether this judge’s order is upheld or overturned by higher courts within the next couple of weeks could have a significant effect on the outcome of key elections in Texas, including those for governor, lieutenant governor and several legislative seats, and how public education and other important public services are affected during next year’s legislative session.

The legislative majority enacted the voter ID law in 2011, during the same session in which the same legislators slashed $5.4 billion from public school budgets in Texas. The law requires voters to produce one of seven forms of photo identification (in addition to voter registration cards) to be allowed to cast ballots in Texas elections.

The legislative majority tried to damage educational opportunities for a public school population that is growing increasingly minority. And it tried to discourage many of those kids’ parents and grandparents from exercising their constitutional right to vote and turning the education-cutters out of office. More than 600,000 registered Texas voters don’t have a driver’s license or other valid form of photo ID, and most of those are Hispanic or black. The potentially expensive, bureaucratic hurdles to get an acceptable ID are an unconstitutional burden, Judge Gonzales Ramos ruled.

She likened the law to the poll taxes imposed by Texas and other southern states during the Jim Crow-era to discourage black Americans from voting. Poll taxes were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court years ago.

The alleged voter fraud that Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and other supporters use as an excuse for the law is, in itself, a fraud. Voter fraud, from a statistical standpoint, is practically non-existent in Texas. Abbott, the attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, immediately announced he will appeal Judge Gonzales Ramos’ ruling. He has the support of Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor nominee, who not only wants to close the border to immigrants, but also wants to keep Texas citizens who don’t look like him or agree with him from voting.

Abbott, Patrick and other supporters of voter ID are trying to use it to keep minority voter turnout low because minority voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates. They do so because they value public education, health care and other critical services that most Democrats continue to champion.

Supporters of the voter ID law have something in common with the segregationists who tried to block schoolhouse and college doors to black students back in the 1960s. To varying degrees, both groups were and are abusing democracy.

The segregationists ended up on the wrong side of history. And so will the voter ID defenders, who will be the real losers in the civics lessons that Texas students will be taught in the not-too-distant future.




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