Monthly Archives: June 2011

Firstterm legislator needs a civics lesson

Freshman state Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin obviously was glad to get home after long, difficult regular and special legislative sessions in Austin, but his assessment of what he and his colleagues accomplished during the past six months missed the basic point of representative government.

Kuempel told his hometown newspaper that he looked forward to visiting with his constituents in District 35 and “filling them in on one of the most successful sessions we’ve ever had. As a body, we did everything the governor asked, everything the leadership asked of us.”

The problem with Kuempel’s statement, of course, is that the voters of District 35 didn’t elect him to play puppy dog to the governor and the legislative leadership. They elected him to represent them – the residents of District 35 – and in that regard he represented most of them poorly, particularly school kids, their parents and their teachers.

He voted to cut funding from the public schools by more than $5 billion and pass a budget that, for the first time in more than 60 years, doesn’t fully pay for school finance formulas and enrollment growth. And, he voted for Senate Bill 8, which does nothing to address the budgetary crisis but instead attacks school teachers, the backbone of the public education system.

“Successful” session?

About as successful as the Titanic’s maiden voyage.


Who voted for Senate Bill 8?

Rep. Sylvester Turner, DHouston, one of the strongest supporters of public school teachers during both the regular and special legislative sessions, offered some interesting statistics during final debate on Senate Bill 8, the antiteacher bill that legislators sent to the governor earlier this week.

Texas, he pointed out, has approximately 1,030 public school superintendents and more than 300,000 public school teachers. Yet, the House was getting ready to pass Senate Bill 8, which was requested by superintendents to allow them to cut teacher pay and weaken teacher employment rights.

Approved 8063, Senate Bill 8 adds injury to injury for teachers and school kids, coming on top of a state budget that slashes more than $5 billion from public education over the next two years.

Most House members either thought teachers would overlook or forgive their votes. Or, maybe some legislators simply can’t count.

If ever there was a time for teachers to be actively involved in politics, this is it. The budget cuts and Senate Bill 8 were political decisions, and the political calculus in Austin (antigovernment, antipublic schools) must be changed.

Between now and the March primary elections, TSTA will be sending its members a lot of information about officeholders and candidates we believe are supportive of teachers and public schools and those who aren’t.

For starters, here is a list of the House members who voted for the final version of Senate Bill 8, the antiteacher bill. Check to see if your state representative is on the list and remember his or her name. When they campaign for reelection next year as proteacher candidates (and they will), don’t believe them.

The proSenate Bill 8 voters (all Republicans) are:

Jose Aliseda of Beeville, Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco, Rodney Anderson of Plano, Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, Marva Beck of Centerville, Leo Berman of Tyler, Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, Dan Branch of Dallas, Cindy Burkett of Mesquite, Angie Chen Button of Richardson, Erwin Cain of Como, Bill Callegari of Houston, Warren Chisum of Pampa, Wayne Christian of Nacogdoches, Byron Cook of Corsicana, Tom Craddick of Midland, Brandon Creighton of Conroe, Myra Crownover of Lake Dallas, John Davis of Houston, Sarah Davis of Houston.

Also, Rob Eissler of The Woodlands, Gary Elkins of Houston, Allen Fletcher of Tomball, Dan Flynn of Canton, John Frullo of Lubbock, John Garza of San Antonio, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Kelly Hancock of Fort Worth, Rick Hardcastle of Vernon, Patricia Harless of Spring, Linda HarperBrown of Irving, Will Hartnett of Dallas, Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville, Charlie Howard of Sugar Land, Dan Huberty of Humble, Bryan Hughes of Marshall, Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, Jim Jackson of Carrolton, Jim Keffer of Granbury, Phil King of Weatherford.

Also, Tim Kleinschmidt of Lexington, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, John Kuempel of Seguin, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Jodie Laubenberg of Rockwall, George Lavender of Texarkana, Ken Legler of Pasadena, Lanham Lyne of Wichita Falls, Jerry Madden of Plano, Dee Margo of El Paso, Doug Miller of New Braunfels, Sid Miller of Stephenville, Geanie Morrison of Victoria, Jim Murphy of Houston, Barbara Nash of Arlington, Rob Orr of Burleson, John Otto of Dayton, Tan Parker of Flower Mound, Ken Paxton of McKinney.

And, Charles Perry of Lubbock, Four Price of Amarillo, Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, Connie Scott of Corpus Christi, Kenneth Sheets of Dallas, Ralph Sheffield of Temple, Mark Shelton of Fort Worth, David Simpson of Longview, Todd Smith of Bedford, Wayne Smith of Baytown, John Smithee of Amarillo, Burt Solomons of Carrolton, Larry Taylor of League City, Vicki Truitt of Southlake, Randy Weber of Pearland, Beverly Woolley of Houston, Paul Workman of Spicewood, Bill Zedler of Arlington, John Zerwas of Simonton.

If you are represented by a Republican in the Texas Senate, your senator also voted for Senate Bill 8 because the vote in that chamber was strictly party line.

A number of House Republicans voted against Senate Bill 8, but most of them, as well as most of the House members who voted for the antiteacher bill, also voted for the new state budget that cuts more than $5 billion from public school budgets.

Teachers have a lot of opportunities to work for political change, not only in the Legislature but also on local school boards, which now have been given much additional authority by Senate Bill 8 over teacher pay and working conditions.

Educators’ futures are largely in their own hands, and it’s time for them to rev up their political engines.

Bowie band director, TSTA member dies

In case you missed the news, Bruce Dinkins, a TSTA member who directed the Bowie High School Band in Austin to the top ranks of high school bands in the country, died unexpectedly earlier this week. Band members, including my son, and parents obviously were floored.

Here is a link to the Austin AmericanStatesman’s story:

Back to the cutting board for Keller ISD

The Keller ISD is being squeezed between a rock and a hard place. The rock is rapid, suburban enrollment growth that has prompted the North Texas district to build 22 new schools since 2000. The hard place is the antitax sentiment of conservative politicians and voters who either think quality education grows on trees…or simply don’t care.

The district, which has been given an excellent efficiency rating by the state comptroller, already had cut more than 200 jobs, increased class sizes, reduced its number of athletic teams and taken other costcutting steps to save about $16 million, or about half of a revenue shortfall anticipated for the next two years.

School officials asked local voters to cover the other half with a 13 cents per $100 valuation increase in its local property tax rate, but local voters rejected the proposal last Saturday. Leading the antitax campaign were the antigovernment, Tea Partytypes whose support of the governor and legislative majority is largely to blame for the revenue shortfall the district is trying to bridge.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also chimed in with a letter to the editor of the Fort Worth StarTelegram against the local tax proposal.

So, what now?

According to news reports, more Keller employees will lose their jobs, fine arts and music programs will be reduced, class sizes will increase for high school students and several thousand kids will lose regular bus service to school.

Maybe the Tea Party will volunteer to help out with car pools.

Elections have consequences.