Monday, January 31, 2011

I Thought That Slavery Was Abolished in 1863

Now that reality seems to have hit the state legislators between the eyes, and they are seeing what drastic cuts to education are going to do to the education system in Texas, the mad scramble has begun.

The mad scramble to find any way at all to decrease the pain to voters and taxpayers, and at the same time turn the screws a few more times around the collective thumbs of Texas educators.

Florence Shapiro, that noisome fly in the ointment of Texas Education has thought up another brilliant plan: to avoid laying off the projected 100,000 teachers that have been projected by some as a result of the budget deficit, why not make it legal to furlough teachers on “non-instructional days.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t relish the idea of losing 100,000 educators in the next two years, and I don’t relish the idea of me being one of them, but I see a couple of problems with this plan.

First, if you are going to cut a budget and it hurts, it had better hurt everyone, not just teachers. If your aim is to drastically decrease the allotment that education receives in the next two years instead of reallocating funds or postponing some funding for a couple of years, then suffer the consequences. Suffer the consequences of say, finding 100,000 people to fill those jobs later on, especially with the looming retirement of more and more from the baby boomer generation.

In other words, if you are going to dig a hole, make sure you can fill it back in some day.

But my second objection is possibly a little more impassioned.

I thought that slavery was abolished.

Florence Shapiro acknowledges that a teacher contract in Texas extends for 187 days, and that 180 of those days are “instructional days,” that is, days when students are in class. The 180 days is a state mandate. But Florence Shapiro wants to make it possible to furlough teachers on “non-instructional days.”

From the Chron:
“Superintendents are pushing for flexibility that would allow them to furlough employees, if necessary, on non-instructional days. ‘It’s something that superintendents are looking for flexibility on,’ said Jenny Caputo, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Administrators.”
Now here’s the thing: in Texas, in order to maintain their credentials, teachers are required to complete 150 hours of “professional development” every 5 years. This is usually not a problem, and a teacher can usually fill the bill while being paid on these non-instructional workdays. But now, by requiring teachers to fulfill this professional development requirement at the same time declining to pay them for this, Texas is essentially re-instituting that time-honored practice of requiring someone to work without being paid for that work.

Slavery in other words.

Balancing a state budget on the backs of teachers, and requiring them to work without the benefit of getting paid. Your state legislature in action.

You get what you vote for.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is the Texas Legislature Purposely Trying to Defund Public Education?

If you want a read on the Texas Legislature’s attitude toward its number one budget item (to the tune of 37% of the entire state budget) all you have to do is follow the money. And when you do you come to an inescapable conclusion that there are people in the Texas Legislature who believe that public education is undesirable if not unconstitutional.

True, the only ones who have voiced this idea with any real conviction are some real rabid political activists with strong leanings toward Libertarian ideals -  and Glenn Beck. But I can’t really believe that people currently behind a state budget plan to cut state education spending by a whopping $10 billion over a two-year period, the so-called biennial budget, are strong supporters of public education.

These projected budget shortfalls are essentially what amounts to broken promises as the state seems to be prepared to distribute less money to school districts all over Texas than is mandated by the state’s constitution. But it gets worse because the legislature, in 2006, also removed any ability by the local school districts to raise revenue by changing their property tax rates. Capped at $1.17 per $100 assessed value, many school districts cannot even get that rate because the legislature passed a law that requires school districts to submit any raise above $1.04 per $100 to the voters for approval.

And you know about the Texas “something for nothing” Taxpayers who think that they are Taxed Enough Already. Any ballot initiative to raise tax rates, even if it was to prop up an impacted school district, would be a stupendous waste of time and money.

The Texas Legislature has, in short, placed school districts all across Texas between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand it is withholding much-needed funds not only to educate its 3 million school children, but to take care of the additional 170,000 that will enter the education system in the next two years. And on the other hand, it prevents local districts to fend for themselves when they decline to provide them adequate funding.

School districts will have to resort to draconian measures to get themselves through this, including the laying off of a projected 100,000 educators. But that’s not all, because the school districts have less money to spend, their lack of spending also impacts their local economies.

If this isn’t a catalyst for a renewed dip in the economic health of the state and local areas, what is?

And if this isn’t an indication of how Texas legislators really and truly regard and value public education, what is?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fox News: The Lesser of Us Edumacating the Lessers of Us

Media Matters has it on their website here. When they say that 20% of Americans can’t find their own country on a world map, the people at Fox News might just find themselves in that number. According to this screen grab, Fox News continues to educate their viewers with stuff that is just wrong.

Like identifying the position of Egypt where Iraq should be in their screen graphics.

You know, Egypt, that entity that has been identified as a sovereign nation for 5000 years that we know of.

A country that was a country before most people had any national identity at all.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Now They All Want Freedom

I should have seen this coming. We should have seen this coming. Tunisia rids itself of a decades-long dictatorial regime after a few days of protest, and now nearby Egypt is on the brink of ridding itself of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak has been in power since Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. Nearly 30 years.

The main problem that the protesters have is that they don’t hate the Egyptian army. They actually like them, even though they are there expressly to bear arms against them now that peace has broken out between Egypt and Israel.

And whoever controls the army controls Egypt.

But throwing the people a bone, Mubarak went ahead and said he was going to dissolve his government – except for himself, that is.

So here is my question: is it going to stop here? Or is Syria next? Or Libya?

I like it that people want freedom and opportunity in an area where neither has been especially prevalent since practically forever. But what disturbs me is that this movement seems to be tinged with religion, and we all know when we read the Old Testament that when religion and politics has mixed in the Middle East, when people start to smite each other, giving their deity full credit for their deeds, that’s when I get a little uncomfortable with freedom and opportunity.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

For GOP Presidential Nomination: Who?

OK at this time in 2007 we Democrats had some solid candidates running for the Democratic nomination for an election to be held just over 22 months later on. As I recall we had Barack Obama and John Edwards with their hats in the ring. Yes it was early but it seemed to be common wisdom at the time that getting a nomination was going to be almost a full-time job from now on.

So then, where are the GOP candidates? Who has declared their candidacy?

Only the crickets are speaking up, for now at least.

All we know is who is not running. At this point Indiana congressman Mike Pence says that he is not going to honor the Tea Party by being its presidential standard bearer, having rebuffed both Dick Armey, who heads up the Teabagger front organization FreedomWorks, and those who voted for him – a majority no less -= at the Value Voters Summit.

Pence says he wants to be Governor of Indiana.

Then there’s Mike Huckabee, the darling of the Christian Right. One thing about Huckabee, he will always get the evangelical vote, and he is still polling an always faithful 21% come rain or shine. Or 24%, depending on which poll you are willing to believe. But has Huckabee said anything?

Or Mitt Romney. I keep telling my LDS acquaintances that Mitt Romney will never be the nominee if the Evangelical Right has any say in the matter. They are unusually rabid about Romney’s religion. It works in Massachusetts where evangelicals are in the vast minority, but in the American heartland? Forget it. Still, Romney has not given it up because he finds himself in New Hampshire a lot lately. Guessing, I imagine that he has a home court advantage over his competitors in this early primary so important for the illusion of momentum.

Or Tim Pawlenty? Yawn.

Huckabee, Romney and Pawlenty. Geez. That’s the mainstream selection so far.

The Tea Party is going to be the fun one to watch. They are still courting Jim DeMint, who has yet to pull a Mike Pence and slam the door on the possibility, and unbelievably, Sharron Angle hasn’t ruled out running for President.


Sarah Palin still won’t go away, even though she now has discovered the acronym WTF. You know, WTF = Winning The Future. This perennial candidate brings presidential campaigning to a level so low, you might say her political vision is subsea. She is a non-entity now, just as Michelle Bachmann has rendered herself a “poor man’s Sarah Palin” according to the daughter of Senator John McCain, Palin’s running mate.

So, barring some unknown dark horse, the 2012 Presidential Election GOP Primary season is really shaping up for a real barn-burner. And the person that emerges from it beating the flames out with his or her hands is going to have a party unification issue that we haven’t seen for a long, long time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Here It Comes, A Voter ID Bill for You and Me

The Texas State Senate is debating today about the Voter ID bill, a moot point, really because the Republicans have enough votes for easy passage in both Houses, particularly because Senate rules have been changed specifically for this red meat conservative issue.

But I really liked the opening debate, about the “constitutionality” of the bill.

A better word, I think, would be legality.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“[State Sen. Troy] Fraser (the bill’s author) said earlier in the day that the provisions of the bill were carefully researched and will pass a constitutional challenge. ‘There's no question,’ Fraser said.”
The constitutional challenge, it would seem is really an issue with squaring this soon-to-be law with the Voting Rights Act passed way back in 1964. Texas, you see, was on the wrong side of the War of Northern Aggression, a lesson that was not learned as they continued to oppress African-Americans with Jim Crow Laws, laws that prevented black people from voting, among other things.

The Voting Rights Act specifically targets 15 states who have acted poorly in the past, and any state law passed that affects the voting process must be reviewed by the federal Department of Justice.

Fraser points to the voter ID law passed in Indiana, a law that has continued to pass muster in court challenges, all the way up to the US Supreme Court. The Texas bill, Fraser says, is patterned after the Indiana law.

Indiana, however, has one thing going for it that Texas doesn’t: it isn’t one of those 15 exceptional states listed in the VRA.

Well, then there’s Georgia, which also fought on the same side as Texas in the War of Northern Aggression, also had similar laws to persecute their former slaves, and also has a voter ID law. Fraser says he patterned his bill after Georgia’s bill – the Texas bill is even a little more severe, he says.

Fine, except that the Georgia voter ID law has been under review by the Feds and in a recent letter to the Georgia Attorney General, we see that they do have some problems with the Georgia law.
“We have carefully considered the information you have provided, as well as information from interested parties. Under Section 5, the Attorney General must determine whether the submitting authority has met its burden of showing that the proposed change “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect” of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group. As discussed further below, I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden in this instance. Therefore, based on the information available to us, I must object to the voter verification program on behalf of the Attorney General.”
So talk about a supreme waste of time and taxpayer money. Here we are in a $27 billion deficit and the Senate (and later on, the House) are frittering away their time (and our money) debating a bill whose future is doomed to the waste heap that Jim Crow Laws have been thrown to.

Texans must love it how these guys waste money.


 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It’s Not Revisionism If You are Ignorant

Now, some will call Michelle Bachmann’s unfortunate commentary to a group of Iowa conservatives awhile ago historical revisionism. That according to her claim, slavery was a bane on the national existence from the get go, and that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to rid this country of the horrible scourge called slavery.

And they eventually did, she says.
video

Forgetting, of course, about the central issue that brought about the Civil War and the deaths of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and the wounding of almost 400,000 more. John Quincy Adams, as as he was, did not oversee the dismantling of slavery in America. That fell to Abraham Lincoln and the hundreds of thousands who died in the Civil War.

The only reason I bring this up is that this is the very person who will deliver the Teabagger version of the State of the Union Address Rebuttal this evening.

As I said in the beginning, some would call this historical revisionism. But this goes beyond all boundaries of that very legitimate pursuit in historical analysis.

It isn’t revisionism when the revisionist is an ignoramus.

I’ll Call You Out as a Liar . . .

Read this FortBendNow article and see if you can make heads or tails of it.

Apparently FBISD Trustee Marilyn Glover felt called upon to threaten the media not to misquote her about her apparent lack of understanding of the gist of a resolution that the school board was considering.

A resolution about adolescent and pre-adolescent bullying.

A resolution about bullying those who are perceived to have different sexual orientations.

Bullying that has led to the tragic suicide of several young people.

That she did so is somewhat of a mystery to me, and can only be interpreted as a defensive act: one where a school board trustee exposed their lack of knowledge or understanding of things that are very much a concern to educators in this new century, where LGBT causes are poised to become mainstream, if not already mainstream.

But then, you get what you vote for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pete Olson Finds the Aye Button

I was wondering if my congressman, Pete Olson, was ever going to find the “Aye” button on that voting machine that he uses to cast votes on what he thinks represents what people in his district want.

For instance, last week Pete Olson found the “Aye” button and voted for HR 2,  the “Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.” That’s right. One of the first votes that my congressman cast was a vote to deny his constituents affordable healthcare. He voted to rescind the law that makes it a crime for health insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. He voted to rescind the law that requires health insurance companies to cover your older children on your own family policy.

Because, you know, times are hard and getting health insurance when you are young is a luxury.

Pete Olson voted to do all of that, but not until he voted in the same voting package to keep his own government-subsidized healthcare insurance. You see, included in many of the amendments offered up in HR 2 was a Democratic-sponsored amendment to “prevent lawmakers from keeping their congressional health insurance if they repeal the new health care law for their constituents. Under this motion to HR 2 (above), repeal could not occur until a majority of members in both chambers were dismissed from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. That taxpayer-subsidized, privately operated program provides extensive health insurance for nearly all members of Congress and their families as well as millions of civil servants, former lawmakers and federal retirees, and their spouses.”

Pete Olson thinks its perfectly OK for he and his family to have the very same healthcare insurance that he voted to deny his constituents.

This isn’t hypocrisy. Not really. What it is, is blind greed. It’s what Republicans do best: grab as much for themselves as they can while telling you that you don’t want or need what he and his colleagues jumped through some hoops to keep for themselves.

CD 22 was sold a bill of goods. Not that we Democrats could do anything about it this time, not with Krazy Kesha on the ballot.

Still and all, it’s nice to see that the congressman can find the “Aye” button. I thought maybe he lost it, or worse, couldn’t decipher that “Aye” meant yes.

I’m going to enjoy seeing my congressman listen to President Obama tomorrow night at his State of the Union Message. Hopefully he will find a place right next to Looney Louie Gohmert like he did last time.

They make quite a pair.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What If They Gave an Execution . . .

...and nobody brought the implements of human destruction?

Seems like an odd idea, but this extension of the often-repeated quote from the ‘60s, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” is particularly appropriate these days.

You see, it seems that the pharmaceutical company, Hospira, Inc., the only US manufacturer of the drug sodium thiopental, has decided to stop producing the drug. It didn’t meet the main elements of their business plan, it seems.

Sodium thiopental is one of the drugs used in the cocktail that is delivered into the veins of convicts who have been handed a death penalty sentence in 34 states. It induces unconsciousness very rapidly. An unconsciousness that allows the human body to accept deadly doses of pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride without outward or otherwise visible signs of struggle.

It makes “cruel and unusual” both humane and typical.

And now, because Hospira has relocated (some would say, outsourced) its North Carolina operations to Liscate, Italy, it has dropped sodium thiopental from its line of products because the Italian government asked them to guarantee that this drug will not be used in state-sponsored executions.

They couldn’t guarantee that, even though someone in their mail room might be able to figure that out when sending this med to an address that includes the words “Department of Corrections.”

They could lie, after all and say that they are actually a department responsible for correcting overbites.

And alarmingly, this is having an impact on the number of individuals that these 34 states are slated to kill in the next few months.

From The Chron:
In Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state, the Department of Criminal Justice said Friday it is exploring the use of another anesthetic. The state has four executions scheduled between now and July but has enough sodium thiopental to carry out only two February executions, spokesman Jason Clark said.
Man, talk about crimping Texas’ style. What will Texas do if it can’t maintain its leadership position in this singular self-defining issue? It’s akin to cutting off Texas’ access to barbecue sauce. To nine millimeter ammo.

Interestingly enough, Hospira continues to produce those two other drugs, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, one of which causes paralysis, and the other stops your heart from beating. These are the main ingredients in any given state-sponsored execution. It seems that the Italian government doesn’t have an issue with these drugs, just the drug that makes state-sponsored murder…well…more friendly.

Because again, it isn’t about the taking of human life, it’s about taking it with style.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comcast: Taking Out Liberal Voices One at a Time

By jumpin’ Jesus they figured it out. They figured out how to silence the loyal opposition. They figured out how to obliterate the voice of progressivism from airwaves. You go for the guy who brought sanity and civility to cable media via his nightly news and commentary show, “Countdown.” You go for the guy who virtually invented speaking for the lower and middle classes and against the power brokers who were trying to make our country into a personal ATM for themselves and their friends.

You go and get Keith Olbermann.

And you silence him.

Details on how and what went into the deal to get Olbermann off of his nightly one-hour MSNBC show are sketchy because that, apparently, was part of the deal.

From the New York Times:
“The executives involved in the discussions confirmed that the deal carries limitations for Mr. Olbermann in terms of when he can next work on television, though he will be able to take a job in radio or on any forum on the Internet. The deal also prohibits the host from commenting publicly on the deal, the executives confirmed.”
But with the just closed deal between Comcast and NBC Universal, along with official blessings by most of the FCC, the timing couldn’t make it clearer who and what is behind this attempt to gut the liberal voice on television: Comcast.

Again, from the same NY Times article:
“Many of Mr. Olbermann’s fans responded to the decision by accusing Comcast, the incoming owner of NBC Universal, of forcing him out for political reasons. Several of Comcast’s top executives have been financial supporters of Republicans.”
An accusation that Comcast will deny until Doomsday.

This is what we have to expect in the days, weeks and months to come. The Right is in a resurgence and this time they are making sure that the opposition, that is, the forces of all that is good and right, doesn’t have a voice or a vote to return the country back to a path of social justice, opportunity, and equality for all.

Keith Olbermann, we hardly knew ye.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hocus Pocus You’ve Lost Your Focus

What happens when you get 80 new Republicans in the US House of Representatives and have lost 63 Democratic seats in the same body? Well, it seems to be the same thing that happens when you get a super-majority of Republicans in the Texas State House.

You get out your top hats, handkerchiefs, cards, wands and rabbits because its time to deflect everyone's attention from what is important with smoke, mirrors and sleight of hand.

In congress, Republicans are making exactly the same mistake that the Obama Administration did in 2009.

In 2009, when Americans asked where were the jobs Obama gave them healthcare reform. Not a bad deal, but Republicans spun up such a festival of lies about it that it was easy to alarm and enrage voters that this was something that they didn’t want, and where were the jobs?

In 2011, Republicans are busy trying to pass legislation to undo the undoable, to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. Next they want to go after abortion. Their second favorite topic: taxpayer funding of abortions.

From NPR:
“At the federal level, anti-abortion forces scored significant gains in the House of Representatives, and majority Republicans introduced two bills Thursday to toughen restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortions. One is aimed specifically at Obama's health care law; the other would establish a permanent, government-wide ban on federal subsidies for most abortions.”
Taxpayers pay for abortions? Since when?

Nevertheless, this is truly magical because these are two red meat issues with the conservative base, and this will convince them that they did the right thing last November when they sent some pretty interesting characters to Washington to legislate.

But Americans will still ask the important question: Where are the jobs? What are you doing to bring the jobs back?

And Austin mirrors DC like nothing before.

In Austin Governor Perry has just designated legislation to require a photo ID for voters to gain access to polling places be an “emergency item.” An emergency item so that they may start the voting process before the mandatory 60-day waiting period.

An emergency item.

So. . . the $27 billion deficit is not an emergency then? Is that what Governor Perry is saying? That he’s got it handled?

Not when you ask the hundreds of school boards across the state, all of which are looking at a bare cupboard when it comes to state funding.

But there it is, in black and white, in the Austin American-Statesman:
“Gov. Rick Perry designated the legislation known as voter ID as an emergency item, meaning the Legislature can take it up within the first 60 days of its 140-day session. Hours later, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told state senators that they will consider the bill next week — a highly unusual move less than two weeks into a session.”
State Rep Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio has it exact when he said this:
“Things apparently are all shiny and bright in Rick Perry's world. For the rest of Texas, we want to take some serious emergency action on the budget.”
Because while Governor Perry and his conservative clique fiddle with voter ID legislation, Texas surely burns with the possibility of thousands of state workers and teachers taking on the new roles of unproductive non-tax-paying citizens.

But it makes for a great magic act, doesn’t it?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Republican Slash and Burn Mentality Evokes Buyer’s Remorse

Poised with torches to burn the rainforest that is our public education system in Texas, Republicans today got their SmartPhones out and called up the four-function calculator app, and did a little addition.

And they didn’t seem like how things were adding up.

From the Austin American-Statesman:
“State Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, fumed that Ranger College in his district was one of four community colleges that had been eliminated as part of the $156 billion bare-bones proposal released to legislators late Tuesday.”

“’We have shown for the first time a closure of community colleges. To me, that is the height of irresponsibility,’ Keffer said. ‘You have put the four of us already on the defensive.’”

A sea of firsts, I think. The first time that Texas will be entering a new decade with a whole host of school textbooks to adopt, and no funds to buy them with. Rubbing salt into the wound, Democrats in the state legislature pointed out that
“...the budget proposal pretends that the 170,000 new students expected in Texas classrooms just won't materialize. Nor was money included to pay for new textbooks or supplemental science materials that are needed to prepare high schools for the upcoming end-of-course exams.”
State Senator Florence Shapiro (R – Plano) who chairs the Senate Education committee, herself an ex-classroom teacher seemed to agree in her statement to the first meeting of the newly assembled State School Board:

“People will use this budget crisis as an excuse, an excuse to abandon some of our high expectations ... an excuse to abandon some of the progress you and we in the Legislature have made ... an excuse to not continue raising that bar. Let's not do that.”
This seems to be a pushback to what I have been hearing from a few school boards, that if there is such a huge cutback in state funding, that state-mandated programs and requirements should also be cut back. One cannot mandate a thing with one hand, and then snatch back the money to carry that mandate out with the other.

And then finally there is the class size controversy. Susan Combs proposes relaxation of the K-4 class size cap, a move that could save the state $558 million in teachers’ salaries, giving Texas opportunity to deliver thousands more to the unemployment rolls. All State Senator Shapiro will say about that is “It is going to be very contentious. . . “

Yep.

Ironically, Education Secretary Arne Duncan seems to be in favor of larger class size, citing the fact that they have larger class sizes in Asia and that Asian students typically perform better than American students. Neglecting to mention that they spend more hours per day and more days per year in school than their American counterparts.

So there you have it. Between House District territoriality, actual concern for students, education and the future Texas workforce, bean counters, and smoke and mirrors, it is going to be anyone’s guess how this will all come out in the wash.

My guess: the school districts that value education will step up and raise taxes. The ones that don’t will step up and raise a new ignorant generation lacking skills to succeed let alone attend college.

Not that they’d be able to afford it . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Texas Legislature: Beating To-Arms in a Race to the Cliff

Well it’s now my turn to say “told ya so.” Grandma had her “told ya so” moment just after the state comptroller issued her revenue projection for the next two years, projecting not only less revenue than taken in over the past two years, but less revenue to take care of projected population increases.

A $27 billion dollar shortfall they say.

And last night the other shoe dropped as a first round budget proposal was released as the champagne glasses were clinking at inaugural balls in Austin.

Even before that we heard of pending layoffs of 8,000 state employees. My words at the time were, I believe: “what do you call 8,000 unemployed state employees? Only the beginning.”

I hate quoting myself, but now we know that this dark prediction is very possibly a near-reality as we process what the Republican-dominated legislature is going to do to Texas this year.

They are going to sound the call-to-arms and march Texas right over a cliff.

Not only does the budget propose to cut $5 billion from what was previously allocated to education in the last budget cycle, they are going to require that school districts “forgo $9.8 billion owed to them under current school finance laws, such as money to cover growth in student enrollment.”

Pre-K education will receive a massive hit, affecting mainly lower economic level families in inner cities.

Republicans promise no new taxes to help balance the budget. They promise to leave the $9 billion "Rainy Day Fund" alone despite the prediction of golf ball-sized hail very, very, soon.

Public education, long a bane of the Republican Party – and considered socialistic by some – has now been laid on the sacrificial altar. A sacrifice to the gods of something-for-nothing taxpayers.

A Chron article, found here, cites the budget quandary that this puts Texas’ 3rd largest school district in. Cy-Fair ISD faces a budget deficit of a staggering $80 million.
“Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Superintendent David Anthony estimated that his district could lose $80 million under the budget blueprint.”

“‘That would significantly impact everything we do in the district," he said. The state's third largest school district has already cut more than $70 million, including some 800 positions, over the past four years.”

“‘We're very lean already,’ Anthony said. ‘Future cuts will impact the services we provide. We want to maintain quality. If you continue additional pressure and cuts, eventually it breaks.’”
But what now seems apparent is that the state legislature is not kicking this can down the road, as they say, they are kicking the can into school board hearing rooms. If what Superintendent Anthony says is true, there is nothing more to cut without cutting meat and bone.

So what do you do when you are offered this devil’s dilemma?

Some districts, I believe, will get the bone saws out. Cy-Fair seems to be doing the only thing that makes sense. When the legislature refuses to take the heat in a tax hike, the local school boards will have to step up and do the right thing.

From The Chron:
“Homeowners in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district would see their property tax bills jump some 30 percent under Superintendent David Anthony’s proposal to revoke the homestead exemption while also raising the tax rate.”

Anthony told the school board and dozens of residents Tuesday night that the district can no longer afford to offer the popular, optional tax break under Texas’ school funding system, which is especially rough on fast-growing school systems such as Cy-Fair.”
And what are Cy-Fair taxpayers going to do about getting charged hundreds of dollars more per year for their children’s education? Scream bloody murder?

Maybe.

Probably.

Math, I guess, isn’t their strong suit.

I blame Texas Education for this failure to produce mastery levels in arithmetic competence.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

President Perry?

It would be a bigger joke if I had any respect for the collective memories of Americans.

Surely, you would think that after suffering through eight years, two wars, a loss of personal freedoms unseen in our history, and the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, Americans would think twice about electing yet another Texas governor. Another glib governor with a fairly well-developed sense of humor yet rather dim between the ears.

Not in a century you might say.

Still then, what is it with the reports that just a day after an inaugural celebration took place in Austin – at a cost of millions (that might have been better spent doing something about the $27 billion budget deficit) – now we are finding that Rick is sending out brainwaves of extra-territorial concern

At his inaugural today he had some words to say about things not Texas, even though a $27 billion budget deficit is something that he should clearly be focused on, some say to the tune of 10000% of his time.

“‘You might say historians will look back on this as the Texas century. Americans once looked to the East Coast for opportunity and inspiration, then to the West Coast. Today they are looking to the Gulf Coast — they are looking to Texas.’ Perry also commented on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the turmoil in Mexico, acknowledging the presence of a Mexican border delegation honoring his inauguration.”
“Perry watchers point out what they feel is a significant bit of scheduling: the governor will not be at the Super Bowl in Dallas Feb. 6 but will be in California honoring the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birth.”

Ronald Reagan wasn’t born in California.

Sigh.

Teabaggers love Perry for his secessionist ways. And maybe in earlier times I would hope for and even invite Rick Perry to run against Barack Obama in 2012. Because that plus the job performance of the previous Texas governor, that should assure President Obama another 4 years.

All bets are off, though. Between corporate funding of elections and the collective American penchant for amnesia, I can only hope that Perry won’t make it out of the starting blocks because of his disastrous economic policies that may just drive the state that he leads over a cliff.

Otherwise we might just have a genuine pistol-packin,’ coyote shootin,’ friend-of-the-corporation, yahoo in the White House – again.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bush-41 Endorses Roger Williams for US Senate

Wow, what amazing news. George Herbert Walker Bush, aka Bush-41 or George the First, has endorsed popular music composer Roger Williams to be the next US Senator from Texas.

Williams is a prolific songwriter and accomplished pianist who is known as the “Pianist to the Presidents” having played for nine, count ‘em, nine Presidents, most recently at a luncheon hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush, Bush-41’s daughter-in-law. He composed "Born Free" among many, many other familiar icons of American popular music.

And while I wasn’t aware that Roger Williams even lived in Texas, or aware of what he would offer in terms of senatorial experience, this endorsement of a man of such elevated stature as Roger Williams, well it just makes me choke up a little.

OK, it’s either that or President Bush has endorsed a car dealer from Weatherford, Texas to be my next US Senator.

The other Roger Williams, you could say.

Yawn.

Never mind.

Hegar Files the Bill That Isn’t There

I am a little perplexed today, on the day we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A man that led millions down the path to social equality. A man who was shot dead with a single shot by one armed with a Remington Gamemaster 7600 rifle crouched near the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee nearly 33 years ago.

Perplexed because we seem to be moving backwards and one evidence of that is a bill that was filed last week by my state senator, Glen Hegar. SB 321 to be exact.

Here is the meat of it:
“A public or private employer may not prohibit an employee who holds a license to carry a concealed handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, who otherwise lawfully possesses a firearm, or who lawfully possesses ammunition from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition the employee is authorized by law to possess in a locked, privately owned motor vehicle in a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area the employer provides for employees.”
Now why is this going backwards?

What riveted my attention to this bill was the “holds a license to carry a concealed weapon” part of it. A history lesson is needed. I see.

Texans who hold a license to carry a concealed weapon can all credit State Rep Suzanna Gratia Hupp for this. It was this woman’s single-minded effort, an effort that also got her elected to the state legislature that saw passage, in 1996 of a law that allowed Texans to carry a concealed weapon once they had passed a safety course and obtained the license.

It is her story that compels me, and perplexes me.

In 1991 a crazed gunman opened up on patrons of a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, killing 24. Hupp’s parents were among the dead. Hupp was there. Her statement:
“I was looking for a weapon, any weapon, because my handgun was 100 feet away, outside in my car. I made an incredibly stupid decision to follow the law, and that cost my family's lives.”
Get it? Her weapon was in her car, exactly in the location specified by Hegar’s 2011 bill. Yet Hegar’s bill specifically targets those who already have concealed weapons licenses.

My point is, if the author of the concealed weapons license law had a gun in her car, and felt powerless to effect a change in the 24 tragedies that befell on that day how will employees who are allowed to lock guns in their cars be so dissimilarly affected? How will they, with their guns locked in their cars, in any way be more empowered than Suzanna Hupp was on that day?

Truth to tell, the only scenario that I can see happening at a workplace where employees are armed, if only at a distance, is that after a set to, a disgruntled employee comes back to the workplace after a smoking break armed to the teeth and ambushes his supervisor or any fellow employees who happen to offend them.

In other words in Hegar’s world, you need some pre-meditation in order to go and get your gun and then use it. What is lost is the immediacy of the moment which is what other lawmakers want to work on, like getting guns in the hands of college students and professors.

My other point is, then, that there has been just a whole series of retrograde motions here – backwards movement. Hegar’s reasoning fails because of Hupp’s 1991 experience. Therefore the next obvious step is to put concealed weapons in the hands of everyone willing to carry one with the nightmare of a possible future circular firing squad as one possible outcome.

My point is, is that we are going, and for some time now, have gone down the wrong path. And the more “gun freedom” laws that get filed and passed by state legislatures the less safe I feel.