Monthly Archives: April 2011

Time to end the budget misery (Updated)

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst tried to clarify his stance on the Rainy Day Fund with a long statement issued by his office this afternoon, most likely after having his ears pinned back by angry Republican senators.

Dewhurst said he can support spending another $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, after all, but only if the economy doesn’t grow enough during the next budget period to increase anticipated state revenue.

Even then, the Senate budget would still cut $4 billion from public education. It’s a bad bill, and senators should still oppose it. (My original posting, based on Dewhurst’s Rainy Day statement yesterday, follows.)

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s decision to throw Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee under the bus on the Rainy Day Fund was surprising and doubtlessly made Dewhurst the target of some angry senatorial comments (in private, of course). Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in the lieutenant governor’s office or the Senate caucus room.

I am referring, of course, to Dewhurst’s comments to reporters yesterday that he was surprised by and disagreed with the Senate Finance Committee’s support for spending another $3 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to help pay for a state budget that doesn’t cut as deeply into education, health care and other critical services as the House’s budget plan.

All but one Republican on the Finance Committee voted for the Senate budget bill, and, until yesterday, there was hope that Dewhurst was independent enough to part company with Gov. Perry and House Republican leaders, who have been insisting all session that the remainder of the Rainy Day Fund is to be left untouched. That is one reason the House budget would cut $8 billion from the public schools during 20122013, while the Senate bill would cut “only” $4 billion.

Dewhurst’s comments, nevertheless, have made an extremely bad budgetary outlook even worse. And, they are all the more reason for people who care about public education to urge their senators to vote against bringing up the budget bill for debate. Senators may get that opportunity as early as tomorrow.

Let’s let this publicbedamned, shortsighted effort at budgetwriting crash and burn, and let’s take our chances with a summer special session.

Who knows? Maybe one of our alleged state “leaders” will even miraculously grow up.

First, the good news…

The Texas Education Agency reported today that the “vast majority” of Texas’ fifth and eighthgrade students passed the math and reading TAKS tests, one of the requirements for promotion to the next grade. That means most of our school children and their educators are doing their jobs.

But what about our alleged state “leaders”? Those would be the individuals in Austin who love the word, “accountability,” as long as it is applied to someone else. What kind of job are they doing?

While thousands of school kids and teachers are wading through another round of TAKS testing this week, the decisionmakers at the Capitol continue to pull the rug out from under them.

The governor and his tea party accomplices in the House are still congratulating themselves for slashing $8 billion from the public schools, and Senate budgetwriters are patting themselves on the back for cutting ONLY $4 billion. Meanwhile, adding more injury to injury, the House was getting ready to debate HB400 later today to make a fullscale assault on teachers’ salaries and employment rights.

School kids could teach their legislators a thing or two about responsibility…and accountability.

The misrepresentations continue

House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler continues to misrepresent House Bill 400, his antiteacher bill that the House may begin debating later today. And, he is in a parade of socalled legislative “leaders” who continue to misrepresent the Legislature’s options for dealing with the revenue shortfall.

In a story by Terry Stutz in The Dallas Morning News today, Eissler claims, again, that HB400 is “all about protecting teacher jobs,” a statement that is strongly disputed by his own bill. You don’t protect teacher jobs by permanently repealing the minimum teacher salary schedule, letting districts furlough teachers and cut their pay, permanently making it easier for districts to fire teachers and permanently weakening or abolishing other teacher employment rights. Or, by permanently raising the 221 class size limit for kindergarten through fourth grade to 251.

HB400 would do all of the above – and more.

“More money for schools is not an option right now,” Eissler said in the same article. “We have to play the hand we’ve been dealt. These are hard choices, but they’re necessary.”

In truth, more money for schools is an option. The House’s budget has left more than $6 billion of the Rainy Day Fund unspent, and there are billions of dollars in potential tax revenue untapped – because the governor and most legislative “leaders” would rather hurt school children and untold thousands of disadvantaged Texans than raise taxes.

The governor and the Legislature deal the budgetary hands. Everyone else has to live with them – or try to.

Senator’s daughter still teaching, so far

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, whose committee has been trying to find more (but not enough) money for education and other needs, noted during a hearing this afternoon that his daughter is a teacher.

“She hasn’t been laid off yet,” he added, although he didn’t say where she taught or even if she taught in Texas.

I hope she keeps her job, and I hope many, many other teachers and school district employees keep their jobs as well. The number will depend to a large extent on how much success Ogden and his fellow senators have in convincing the House and the governor to quit trying to ruin public education.

In a cursory review of today’s news clips, I counted more than 800 jobs recently lost, some by attrition, in five school districts alone – Angleton, Calallen, Katy, Spring and Ector County. Unfortunately, the clips are full of similar stories every day.

While the Legislature grinds away, real people – a lot of real people – have their futures on the line.