Amazon haiku to Sen. Wendy Davis’s pink Mizuno shoes

June 27, 2013

(Yes, you’re right — the shoes are red, not pink.)

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis‘s filibuster so insinuated itself into our culture already that it is now a part of shoe reviews at Amazon.com:

Mizuno running shoes for sale at Amazon.com -- the same shoes Sen. Wendy Davis wore during her filibuster on June 25, 2012.

Mizuno running shoes for sale at Amazon.com — the same shoes Sen. Wendy Davis wore during her filibuster on June 25, 2012.

Customer Review


147 of 150 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars SHOES HAIKUS, June 27, 2013

By

mistersnoid “mistersnoid”

This review is from: Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 16 Running Shoe (Apparel)

Wendy wore these, and
she wasn’t even running.
Here’s hopes she soon will!

Standing and talking,
one needs a lot of support.
You have all of ours.

More:

Mizuno's red running shoes, worn by Texas Sen. Wendy Davis.  Image from Outside the Beltway

Mizuno’s red running shoes, worn by Texas Sen. Wendy Davis. Image from Outside the Beltway


Dallas hearing on Texas redistricting tomorrow, June 6, 2013

June 5, 2013

I get e-mail from Sen. Wendy Davis:

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Dallas Observer image

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Dallas Observer image

I wrote to you last week about the Special Session that Governor Perry has called to address redistricting. As you know, state leaders have dropped their challenges to the Senate district map, meaning that the current makeup of Senate District 10 should remain unchanged for the remainder of the decade. This is wonderful news for our community. We’ve faced this redistricting battle for the past two years and have finally earned an important victory that continues to hold us together.

Unfortunately, Governor Perry is also insisting that the Legislature adopt the interim congressional and State House maps, which include features that a federal court ruled are in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. The people of our district certainly know how important it is to have fairly drawn maps that allow voters to elect the leaders of their choice. All Texans deserve that.

You have a chance to speak out against the unfair congressional and State House maps.

I hope you will join us tomorrow for a public hearing with the House Select Committee on Redistricting. It’s vital that we make our voices heard. Let’s tell our state leaders to keep Senate District 10 intact and then to draw fair congressional and State House districts.

PUBLIC HEARING – House Select Committee on Redistricting
Thursday, June 6 – 2:00 PM – 1401 Pacific Avenue, Dallas
 

The Committee will hear testimony from any member of the public until 7:00 PM.
Once again, I understand that this is extremely short notice. I wish that there were more opportunities for the people of North Texas to have their say on this critical issue, but this may be the only chance that we get. If you are able, please come stand with us in the fight for fair maps.

Your friend, and proudly, your state senator,

Wendy
Wendy Davis

Will you be there?

English: Seal of State Senate of Texas. Españo...

Seal of State Senate of Texas. Wikipedia image. (Are those dots the Illuminati dots Gov. Perry insisted on?)

It’s a lousy place for inexpensive parking, so you may want to take the train — it runs within a couple of blocks of the hearing site.  But it’s a vital topic.

One wearies of the Texas GOP ramming their views down the gullet of citizens as if voters were just geese to be fattened for foie gras.

More:


823 Texas school boards say they are “anti-testing”

October 12, 2012

Political consultant and columnist Jason Stanford out of Austin Tweeted an interesting note today:  823 school boards in Texas now have passed resolutions opposing “over-reliance on high-stakes testing.”

From the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) website:

Testing Resolution Update

Submitted by Alberto Rivas on October 11, 2012

As of October 11, 823 school districts representing more than 4.3 million students have notified us that they’ve adopted the testing resolution opposing the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. That’s 80 percent of Texas school districts and 88 percent of all Texas public school students.

If you believe the current testing system is strangling our public schools, imposing relentless test preparation and memorization and is stealing the love of learning from your students, then we encourage you to present the resolution to your board for consideration. You can use the sample resolution as written or modify it to meet your needs.

See the list of districts that have adopted the resolution.

Here’s the text of the sample resolution:

WHEREAS, the over reliance on standardized, high stakes testing as the only assessment of learning that really matters in the state and federal accountability systems is strangling our public schools and undermining any chance that educators have to transform a traditional system of schooling into a broad range of learning experiences that better prepares our students to live successfully and be competitive on a global stage; and

WHEREAS, we commend Robert Scott, former Commissioner of Education, for his concern about the overemphasis on high stakes testing that has become “a perversion of its original intent” and for his continuing support of high standards and local accountability; and

WHEREAS, we believe our state’s future prosperity relies on a high-quality education system that prepares students for college and careers, and without such a system Texas’ economic competitiveness and ability to attract new business will falter; and

WHEREAS, the real work of designing more engaging student learning experiences requires changes in the culture and structure of the systems in which teachers and students work; and

Whereas, what occurs in our classrooms every day should be student-centered and result in students learning at a deep and meaningful level, as opposed to the superficial level of learning that results from the current over-emphasis on that which can be easily tested by standardized tests; and

WHEREAS, We believe in the tenets set out in Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas (TASA, 2008) and our goal is to transform this district in accordance with these tenets; and

WHEREAS, Our vision is for all students to be engaged in more meaningful learning activities that cultivate their unique individual talents, to provide for student choice in work that is designed to respect how they learn best, and to embrace the concept that students can be both consumers and creators of knowledge; and

WHEREAS, only by developing new capacities and conditions in districts and schools, and the communities in which they are embedded, will we ensure that all learning spaces foster and celebrate innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication and critical thinking; and

WHEREAS, these are the very skills that business leaders desire in a rising workforce and the very attitudes that are essential to the survival of our democracy; and

WHEREAS, imposing relentless test preparation and boring memorization of facts to enhance test performance is doing little more than stealing the love of learning from our students and assuring that we fall short of our goals; and

WHEREAS, we do not oppose accountability in public schools and point with pride to the stellar performance of our students, but believe that the system of the past will not prepare our students to lead in the future and neither will the standardized tests that so dominate their instructional time and block our ability to make progress toward a world-class education system of student-centered schools and future-ready students;

THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED that the ___________ ISD Board of Trustees calls on the Texas Legislature to reexamine the public school accountability system in Texas and to develop a system that encompasses multiple assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, and more accurately reflects what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of the rigorous standards essential to their success, enhances the role of teachers as designers, guides to instruction and leaders, and nurtures the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students.
PASSED AND APPROVED in this _____ day of _____________, 2012.

823 school districts in Texas, looking out for 4.3 million students.  The Texas Lege mostly represents the Tea Party against the People of Texas these days; don’t look for quick action.

Is your school district one of the 823?

More:


Can public schools work? Texas Tribune’s interview with Michael Marder, Part II

June 11, 2011

From my earlier post on the Texas Tribune interview with Michael Marder, in which he questioned the assumptions that monkeying with teacher discipline, accountability, pay, training, vacations, or anything else, can produce better results in educating students, especially students from impoverished backgrounds.

Marder is the director of the University of Texas’s program to encourage much better prepared teachers, UTeach.

Michael Marder’s numbers show that it’s not the teachers’ fault that so many students are not ready for college, and not learning the stuff we think they should know.

Texas Tribune said:

In the popular 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee said, “But even in the toughest of neighborhoods and circumstances, children excel when the right adults are doing the right things for them.”

After looking at the data, Marder has yet to be convinced that any teaching solution has been found that can overcome the detrimental effects of poverty on a large scale — and that we may be looking for solutions in the wrong place.

[Reeve] Hamilton’s interview of Marder takes up three YouTube segments — you should watch all three.

Here’s Part 2:

Read the original introductory article at Texas Tribune.

For the record, Michelle Rhee is probably right:  In the toughest neighborhoods, children excel when the right adults do the right things for them.  But the right adults usually are parents, and the right things include reading to the children from about 12 months on, and pushing them to love learning and love books.  Teachers get the kids too late, generally, to bend those no-longer-twigs back to a proper inclination.  The government interventions required to boost school performance must come outside the classroom.  Michelle Rhee’s great failure — still — is in her tendency not to recognize that classroom performance of a student has its foundations and live roots in the homes and neighborhoods who send the children to school every day.


Teachers meet in Austin June 7, to plead for Texas children and education

June 6, 2011

Yeah, this video was first created for the April 2 teacher demonstrations in Austin; but the Texas Lege got filibustered at the last minute.  Now the Lege is in special, emergency session.

They still plan to begin the dismantling of Texas public education.  After the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Texas did not follow the errors of Mississippi, Arkansas and Virginia, shutting down some or all of the state’s schools rather than education students of color.  As a result, Texas students leapt ahead of their counterparts in those states.

But today, in 2011, the Texas Lege plans two years of budget cuts that will kill Texas education reform efforts and backtrack on 20 years of progress.

Teacher groups ask Texas teachers to go to Austin June 7 to protest budget cuts.

It may be like Canute speaking to the sea, the Texas Lege is that stone deaf (water deaf?) — but if Texas teachers don’t stand up for education and Texas kids, who is left to do it?  Niemöller is dead.  Who is left?


Dallas ISD projects less dismal budget picture

May 26, 2011

Generally, Texas school districts need to lock down their school year budgets by about the end of April.

Of course, that’s not possible this year.  As of this morning, it looked as though the Texas Lege could not agree on school funding, and they will have to return for a special session to set education budgets in June or July.

Can you imagine being the budget officer for a Texas school district?

But, sorta good news in Dallas:  Budget officers, making their best guesses on what will  happen, created Budget 5.0 (the fifth iteration of this process — one is usually all a district gets, or needs).

Here’s the message from Downtown on the school’s internal communication system:

Budget Plan 5.0 presented to trustees

Budget Plan 5.0 was presented to trustees today during a budget workshop. The administration is optimistic that this particular scenario, which envisions a $90 million cut in state funding to the district, will be closest to the final budget presented to the board for approval in June.

Here are some of the highlights of Budget Plan 5.0:

  • No additional layoffs at the campus level will be necessary.
  • There will not be an additional loss in the number of teaching positions. The early resignation incentive offered earlier in the spring cut enough from the payroll to make any additional loss of positions unnecessary. It must be noted, however, that some reassignments will need to occur to level campuses depending upon staffing needs.
  • Full day pre-kindergarten for eligible Title I students, which has been a priority of the Board of Trustees, will be funded.
  • Certain teacher stipends will be eliminated.
  • Secondary schools will be staffed at a 27-1 class-size ratio, an increase over the current level of 25-1. While this is not ideal, it is preferable to earlier budget versions that included a 35-1 ratio.

Texas lawmakers remain gridlocked on the funding mechanism for schools yet have indicated an agreement in principle on the amount that will be available. The latest funding scenarios from the state give the district confidence to move forward with Budget Plan 5.0, with the possibility of some modifications, prior to its approval by the Board of Trustees in June.


Blaming the teachers can’t overcome problems of poverty in educational achievement

May 24, 2011

We got the scores from the state yesterday, for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).  Most of my students are juniors, so this is a big deal.  If they pass these tests, in mathematics, science, English language arts and social studies.

Preliminary results gave me a 100% pass rate with 41% commended, out of  134 students whose scores counted (don’t ask about those formulae).  Considering that our students’ poverty rate, as measured by school lunches, is well north of 85%, that’s good.

It doesn’t mean all these kids are ready for the Ivy League, though.

I know the preliminary results err somewhere.  I can find two students in special education categories who did not muster the scores I had hoped, and to me, it looks like they may need to retake.  Two failures wouldn’t be bad, either.  I’ll let the state and our administrators fight that out.

So, I’ve done an okay job of teaching our kids bubble guessing.   That’ what the TAKS test does, focus teaching on bubble guessing.  Are we getting these kids ready for life and college?  I have more doubts.  The TAKS curriculum is limited, and shallow.  Dallas District has two other tests, but again the curriculum tested is limited and shallow.

Each year I discover most students don’t remember what they studied of Paul Revere, and almost none know the famous Longfellow poem about him.  They don’t know about Joyce Kilmer, either his poem or the sacrifice of his life.

Reading political cartoons proves difficult for many students, because they don’t understand the symbolism, sometimes of easy stuff like, “who does the Statue of  Liberty represent?” or “why is that guy dressed in a star-spangled coat, striped pants and striped top hat?”

They don’t know about Route 66.  They don’t know the National Parks.  They don’t know Broadway, nor Stephen Foster.  They are convinced Utah has some big river that led the Mormons to settle there, “on or near a waterway,” instead of the real reasons the Mormons settled there, for religious freedom in a desert.

Despite their remarkable test achievements, their teachers are all on the chopping block this year.  The Texas Lege still quibbles over whether to lay off 10,000 or 100,000 teachers over the summer.  We leave the academic year knowing only that the legislature as a collective hates teachers and teaching and schools, and they probably don’t like the students much, either, but they can’t say that because they want the students’ parents’ votes.

Jonathan at JD 2718 sent me a note a couple of weeks ago alerting me to a story in the online Texas Tribune, by Reeve Hamilton.  Hamilton interviewed Dr. Michael Marder, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin who in his spare times runs UT’s UTeach Program, which encourages the best students in science and math to consider teaching elementary and secondary classes.  Marder has a strong case to make that it’s not the teacher’s fault when students in some schools do not measure up to the standards promulgated by the state tests, inadequate and inappropriate as those standards are.

(Personal note:  Reeve Hamilton is a very good reporter who often does great work on otherwise mundane issues; he’s also the son of a woman I met in graduate school at the University of Arizona, the first woman who ever gave me a highly contingent proposal of marriage, which as you see we did not carry out — probably much to the benefit of all of us, with Reeve doing such great work, and all our kids being basically sane and sound.  I smiled when Jonathan said such good things about Reeve’s work, and the subject of the story.  Nice to hear unasked-for compliments about people you know and like.)

Marder knows numbers.  Marder got the statistics on schools and their preparation of students for college, as well as we can get those numbers without an expensive and expansive study.

Michael Marder’s numbers show that it’s not the teachers’ fault that so many students are not ready for college, and not learning the stuff we think they should know.

Texas Tribune said:

In the popular 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee said, “But even in the toughest of neighborhoods and circumstances, children excel when the right adults are doing the right things for them.”

After looking at the data, Marder has yet to be convinced that any teaching solution has been found that can overcome the detrimental effects of poverty on a large scale — and that we may be looking for solutions in the wrong place.

Hamilton’s interview of Marder takes up three YouTube segments — you should watch all three.

Marder indicts those who blame teachers first, with the data.  By implication, he also indicts the state legislatures who appear bent on continuing the daily flogging of teachers until teacher morale improves.

In Part I of the interview with Hamilton, Marder shows the statistics that demonstrate poverty of the student is a greater influence on student achievement than the teacher:


Surprise attack on public schools today, in Texas Lege?

May 18, 2011

From the Texas Freedom Network (late last night — so where it says, “tomorrow,” think “today!”):

Voucher Lobby Launches Big Surprise Attack on Texas Public Schools

TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR NOW TO OPPOSE VOUCHER SCHEME THAT WOULD DRAIN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM OUR NEIGHBORHOOD PUBLIC SCHOOLS

We have just learned that advocates of private school voucher schemes are planning to offer legislation as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) that would drain billions of dollars from our neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools across Texas. A proposed amendment to important fiscal legislation in the Texas House of Representatives would allow the state to give so-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants – vouchers – to families that send their children to private or religious schools. The money would come directly from tax dollars originally intended for public education – even if recipients of these vouchers had never set foot in a public school!

This radical new voucher proposal is backed by a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education groups, including the Texas Home School Coalition and Tea Party activists. They are dishonestly claiming that their voucher scheme will save the state money – but the loss in funding would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But now as lawmakers consider billions of dollars in cuts to the budget for public education, voucher advocates want to siphon off billions more in funding from our neighborhood schools.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas House of Representatives could vote on this reckless voucher amendment tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18). It’s critical that you CALL YOUR LEGISLATOR TODAY and TOMORROW MORNING and insist that he or she oppose this irresponsible effort to defund neighborhood public schools. Tell your legislator:

  • So-called “Taxpayer Savings” grants are nothing more than a radical and irresponsible private school voucher scheme. They could drain billions of dollars from neighborhood public schools on top of the billions in painful cuts to public education already in the current House and Senate budget bills.
  • These vouchers/grants would not cover the full cost of private school tuition and would therefore go mostly to tuition subsidies for high-income families – including families with children who were never in public schools to begin with.
  • This voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for recipients of these tax-funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Click here to find out who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives and the contact information for his or her office.


Really, the Texas Republicans yacht to be tossed out

May 4, 2011

Texas’s legislative follies win worldwide attention.  From deepest, darkest Minnesota:

I’m just amazed that Texas citizens will elect congresspeople who will do things like this:

In response to the worst state budget crisis since World War II, the Texas House has proposed slashing $27 billion from the budget, including huge cuts to education, nursing homes, and health care for the poor. Yet last Friday, the Texas House Ways and Means Committee approved a tax break for those who want to buy yachts costing $250,000 or more.

I think every unemployed worker, everyone struggling by on minimum wage, every waitress working for less than minimum wage, every teacher watching her support dwindle, every farmer, every working class person ought to be storming the capitol and lining up the fat cats against the wall…but barring that extreme reaction, shouldn’t we at the very least expect those same people to walk into their voting booths and throw the rascals out?

So, Texas parents, when your kid can’t get an AP class next year, when your kid gets stuck in a class with 37 rowdy kids who don’t care that your kid wants to learn enough to get into college, when your aged uncle gets tossed out of his nursing home because it has to close . . . will you vote these clowns out?

And a tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula for alerting us.


Texas Lege plans to throw education under the bus

May 4, 2011

In a desperate attempt to hold on to tax cuts for big oil companies, estate and plantation owners, Republicans in the Texas legislature announced they will steamroll Democrats to throw education under the Texas budget bus.

Seatbelts won’t help the kids in front of the bus.

In a possibly unrelated move, some legislators are re-thinking their plan to allow teachers to carry firearms.

You couldn’t write fiction like this.  Farce with tragic consequences, or pure tragedy?


“Dark day” in Dallas: Republican War on Education creates hundreds of casualties

April 29, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s War on Education created hundreds of casualties today in Dallas Independent School District.  Though the Texas Lege has not approved a final budget, the best case scenario at the moment targets hundreds of jobs in Dallas, and tens of thousands of jobs across Texas.

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa sent out this message today:

A message from Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa

Earlier today, the district’s administration began the painful process of notifying hundreds of central staff employees that their positions are being eliminated effective immediately. The individuals impacted are good, hard-working people from all departments who have dedicated years of talent and expertise to this school district. They have been colleagues for a long time and they will be missed. While many of them may not have directly worked with children in the classroom, their contributions were nonetheless important in the life of the Dallas Independent School District.

It is highly regrettable that the statewide budget deficit has forced the district to take this drastic course. While many positions are being eliminated, the work is not. Those employees who remain will have an increased burden without extra pay. Please be patient with those who remain on staff in an effort to serve you, parents and the general public.

Today’s action was taken to protect instruction on our campuses as much as possible from the upcoming budget deficit. All totaled, with the layoffs, reassignments, vacancies that will remain unfilled and the number of central staff employees who took the early notification incentive, hundreds of positions have been eliminated from central administration, which will save the district roughly $25 million.

It should be noted that this is the third time in the last four years that Dallas ISD’s central administration staff has been cut. During 2007, 169 central staff positions were eliminated when central services were reorganized. During the fall of 2008, another 160 central staff positions were eliminated because of the district shortfall at the time.

The district is in a financial predicament this time through no fault of our own and we are continuing to work with lawmakers to attempt to minimize cuts to classrooms. At the same time, it appears more likely than ever that Dallas ISD is facing a deficit this next school year of anywhere from $88 million to $126 million. Please continue to press upon state legislators that our work as public school educators is critical to students both now and in the future.

Today is a dark day in our school district and that’s putting it mildly. To those who remain part of Dallas ISD, thank you for your continued hard work on behalf of our students.

Six years ago the Texas Lege cut property taxes, a huge boost to large property owners and those with very expensive tracts of land.  However, the Lege then failed to institute promised new taxes on businesses.  With annual budget shortfalls resulting, contrary to Gov. Perry’s 2010 campaign promises, Texas ended up with a $27 billion deficit in 2011.  Rather than impose new taxes on those who profited from the tax cuts, Rick Perry proposed to fire teachers and close schools.

The Texas budget proposals directly counteract efforts by the Federal Reserve to increase jobs in the nation.

Those firings started today, in Dallas.  Teachers are not included, yet.


Pray that God will save Texas; it’s clear Rick Perry won’t

April 25, 2011

Texas doesn’t have a recall procedure for politicians in office.  If it did, would Texans have the guts to use it on Rick Perry?

You’ve probably seen it in the news:  Over the last ten days, Texas has been scorched by several large wildfires.  At least two firemen were killed.  Hundreds of homes and one state park burned away.  (See the Christian Science Monitor: “Texas wildfires:  Why this season is one of the worst in state history,” and “Can U.S. handle historic Texas wildfires?”)

Firefighters, mostly, come from small town, volunteer fire departments.  Most of the affected towns are too small to be able to afford a larger, professional fire-fighting department.

Gov. Rick Perry’s mathematical errors cost Texas $27 billion, a shortfall that Republicans propose to make up by cutting to the bone, and deeper, education programs, road building and maintenance, aid to the poor, and police and fire departments.

Yes, in the middle of one of the biggest fire disasters in Texas history, Rick Perry and the Texas Lege propose to cut the funding to the fire fighters.

If they don’t cut funding, they would have to roll back tax cuts to wealthy property owners granted six years ago, or dip into the states $9 billion “rainy day” fund.

Gov. Perry does have one other trick up his sleeve to help victims of the fires:  He’s asked Texans to pray for rain.  Fire departments need equipment, people and training, all of which cost money.  Gov. Perry asks for prayers instead.

Gov. Perry Issues Proclamation for Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas

Thursday, April 21, 2011  •  Austin, Texas  •  Proclamation

TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME:

WHEREAS, the state of Texas is in the midst of an exceptional drought, with some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s; and

WHEREAS, a combination of higher than normal temperatures, low precipitation and low relative humidity has caused an extreme fire danger over most of the State, sparking more than 8,000 wildfires which have cost several lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres of land and destroyed almost 400 homes, causing me to issue an ongoing disaster declaration since December of last year; and

WHEREAS, these dire conditions have caused agricultural crops to fail, lake and reservoir levels to fall and cattle and livestock to struggle under intense stress, imposing a tremendous financial and emotional toll on our land and our people; and

WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto signed my name and have officially caused the Seal of State to be affixed at my Office in the City of Austin, Texas, this the 21st day of April, 2011.

RICK PERRY
Governor of Texas

Perry’s call for prayer rightly earned ridicule.  Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars wondered about Jon Hagee and Pat Robertson weighing in, as they usually do, claiming big disasters to be the result of sinfulness in the local population.   P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula simply wonders about the effectiveness of a governor who does that.


Dallas educators still bracing for the budget storm

April 14, 2011

Here’s the view from Ross Avenue, HQ of the Dallas Independent School District, as of today:

A message from Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa

Today, Proposed Budget Version 3.0 was presented to the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. This plan considers what a $110 million cut would mean to the district’s budget during the 2011-2012 school year.

From the outset, I want to be clear that we are under no impression at this time that the district will end up facing a $110 million cut. It may end up being larger than that. At the same time, there is a slight possibility that it could be less.

In any event, with only six weeks to go in the Texas legislative session, it is more apparent than ever that school districts throughout the state, including ours, are facing significant cuts because of the state’s budget shortfall. I have worked in public education in Texas for more than 30 years and have never seen anything like this.

The Texas House already has approved HB1, which would require cuts to our budget of anywhere from $130 to $170 million. It would also eliminate significant funding for prekindergarten; reading, math, and science initiatives; and teacher performance pay incentives.

The Senate has yet to vote on HB1, nor has it passed a Senate version, but we are hopeful that it will be an improvement over the current bill. The deficit is so large, however, that it is difficult to get too optimistic.

Proposed Budget Version 3.0 would still eliminate more than 2,400 positions from the district’s payroll. The only positive under this scenario is that, thanks to the 700 contract employees who took the early resignation incentive, the district would not have to further reduce the number of teachers currently employed. While that may be a relief to many, it means that those teachers who remain will be asked to do more.

For instance, under 3.0, the collaborative planning period during the school day for secondary teachers would be eliminated. Middle and high school class-size ratios would be set at 25-1.

The details of Proposed Budget Version 3.0 can be found on the special Web site created to update everyone on our budget: www.dallasisd.org/finoutlook. Bear in mind, however, that as soon as you have a chance to review this plan, our financial staff will have already begun preparing Proposed Budget Version 4.0.

I again want to thank all staff members for your patience throughout this process. I also want to thank those of you who have contacted your lawmakers about your concerns and, especially, to all those who have traveled to Austin to speak out in person. Every little bit helps. Please continue to make your feelings known to lawmakers as they reach the final stretch of their discussions.

When school begins next fall, we will have the same number of students in Dallas ISD, all of whom have dreams for the future. None of them will care about our budget; they will only care about how we are preparing them with the skills to be successful. I know that our dedicated staff will once again rise to the occasion, as it has done so many times before, to meet their needs.


Texas House votes to maim education, cripple health care, send the aged off to ice floes

April 4, 2011

Where anyone can find an ice floe in Texas is a powerful question, but the search will be on to find some soon, if the budget approved by the Texas House of Representatives cannot be fixed.

Texas House Democrats sent out a notice shortly after the vote, explaining some of the cuts:

An hour ago, Texas House Republicans forced through some of the most destructive budget cuts in Texas history.  On a party line vote, 101 House Republicans trampled on the priorities of regular, middle-class Texas families. [1]

Tonight, Republicans voted to:

  • Eliminate 335,000 Texas jobs in both the public and private sectors, threatening our fragile economic recovery [2]
  • Lay off up to 100,000 teachers and school support workers, crowding dozens of kids into unruly classrooms [3]
  • Kick 100,000 kids out of full day Pre-Kindergarten [4]
  • Close half of the state’s nursing homes, leaving thousands of seniors with no place to go [5]
  • Create a ripple effect that will force local governments like cities, counties and local school districts to raise taxes [6]
  • Cut off access to financial aid for thousands of graduating high school seniors [7], while forcing up college tuition through cuts. [8]

They didn’t have to cut this deeply into the priorities set by most Texas families.  They chose to make the deepest cuts public education since the creation of our school finance system in 1949. [9]

For months, Republicans have been yelling “Cuts! Cuts!” and they have ignored the thousands of office visits, letters, emails and phone calls of average Texans protesting these hurtful cuts.

Democrats offered plenty of creative solutions that would keep schools open, spare nursing homes from closing, and keep our promise to graduating seniors who have worked hard for a chance to earn a college education. Republicans shot them down one by one in favor of deeper cuts.
Anybody can swing an axe and slash budgets across the board.  Texas needs people who can lead, set priorities, and protect those priorities.

Remember, Republicans chose to make these cuts. Help us hold them accountable for costing jobs, hurting families, and for choosing to sacrifice the future of too many Texas kids.

Sincerely,

Cliff Walker
Texas HDCC

  1. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB1
  2. http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Budget-cuts-could-slash-hundreds-of-thousands-of-1291051.php
  3. http://www.kvue.com/home/117522288.html
  4. http://www.newschannel10.com/Global/story.asp?S=14368977
  5. http://www.reporternews.com/news/2011/mar/09/democrats-cuts-will-hit-homes/?print=1
  6. http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/08/2906285/unfunded-mandates-from-the-texas.html
  7. http://blog.mysanantonio.com/texas-politics/2011/03/house-budget-writers-ok-bill-that-would-trim-23-billion/
  8. http://www.newswest9.com/Global/story.asp?S=14310923
  9. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MBC0PG1.htm

Fewer teachers when more are needed, bigger classrooms when smaller classrooms are needed, less health care in the state with the largest uninsured population of any state, the highest proportion of uninsured people.

Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Texas Republicans chose the meat cleaver over the scalpel to try to balance Gov. Rick Perry's $27 billion deficit. Many cuts appear targeted to do the most damage possible to education and other "liberal" state functions. Cleaver prop from YourProps.com

Prisons, highways, state parks, and other programs suffered serious cuts, too.

Had a foreign power done this to Texas, it would be considered an act of war.  How will Texas citizens respond?

More:


Now is the time for all good citizens to phone legislators for the sake of their country . . .

March 31, 2011

Ready to start dialing?  It’s time to dial to save your country.

MoveOn.org asks Texans to phone their U.S. senators for help:

Dear Ed,

Heads up: Congress is debating a budget plan that would be devastating to Texas. Will you pass this along?

Senators Kay Hutchison and John Cornyn need to hear from all of us about it right now, before they cut a deal in the next few days.

Please spread the word about all of these proposed cuts to Texas:

  • $98 million would be cut from federal funds for clean and safe water in Texas.1
  • 12,000 Texas children would be immediately cut from Head Start, which provides comprehensive early childhood development services for at-risk children ages zero to five.2
  • $391 million would be cut from Pell Grants, affecting all 664,000 higher education students with those grants in Texas.3
  • Job training and employment services would be effectively eliminated for 5,800 dislocated workers, 99,000 low-income adults, and 16,000 youths age 14 to 21.4
  • $10 million would be cut from law enforcement assistance, taking cops off the beat.5

It’s especially galling when the same budget protects tax breaks for corporations like GE and the very rich.

Just last night the news broke that Congress may be close to striking a deal on the budget. Now is the only time we can influence the outcome.

Can you call Sens. Hutchison and Cornyn and ask them to oppose these cuts in the budget? You can pick one of the cuts in this list to highlight in your call.

Senator Kay Hutchison
Phone: 202-224-5922

Senator John Cornyn
Phone: 202-224-2934

Click to report your call. Then pass this email along locally!

http://pol.moveon.org/call?tg=FSTX_1.FSTX_2&cp_id=1547&id=26722-5763840-yqXs_sx&t=2

The cuts that the Republicans are proposing would disproportionately hit those who can least afford it in Texas, and it’s up to us to stop them.

Thanks for all you do.

-Daniel, Amy, Milan, Tate, and the rest of the team

Sources:

1. “House Bill Means Fewer Children in Head Start, Less Help for Students to Attend College, Less Job Training, and Less Funding for Clean Water,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March, 1, 2010
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3405

2. “Projected Reduction in Children Served in Head Start Based on H.R. 1—Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution,” Center for Law and Social Policy
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=207278&id=26722-5763840-yqXs_sx&t=3

3. “House Bill Means Fewer Children in Head Start, Less Help for Students to Attend College, Less Job Training, and Less Funding for Clean Water,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March, 1, 2010
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3405

4. Ibid

5. Ibid

Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 5 million members—no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.

Meanwhile, the Texas House of Representatives scheduled the start of debate on H. 1 for Friday, April 1 — the budget resolution that would gut Texas schools and higher education, and set Texas on a course of decline that will make California’s troubles look serene by comparison.

NEA’s Texas affiliate, the Texas State Teachers’ Association, asks teachers to call their Texas representatives to weigh in against the drastic budget cuts (and you can call, too):

March 30, 2011

House Bill 1 is an assault on the public schools!

This Friday, April 1, the Texas House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate on House Bill 1, its version of the state budget for 2012-2013. If this bill were to become law in its present form, it would cut almost $8 billion from public education and, with it, tens of thousands of school district jobs.

Unfortunately, this is no April Fool’s joke.

It is, instead, the proposal of a state leadership that would rather plug a huge hole in the state budget by firing teachers, packing kids into overcrowded classrooms and closing neighborhood schools than by adequately investing in our state’s future.

NOW is the time to call your legislator and let him or her know what these budget cuts will mean in your classroom, your school and your community. We must stop House Bill 1, and your call is critical!

To contact your state representative, call 800-260-5444, and we will connect you [That's the number for TSTA members, but try it -- I'll bet they'll accept your help!]. You can call any time, day or night, but you need to call before Friday. Leaving a voice message with your representative’s office is just as good as talking to a staff member.

It is important to include the following points in your conversation or message:

  • Your name, that you are a TSTA member and that you live and vote in their district.
  • An overwhelming number of people in your community – parents, teachers and other taxpayers – oppose cuts that would harm public schools.
  • Your own story, how laying off educators, cramming children into crowded classrooms and closing neighborhood schools would have a harmful impact on your students and community.
  • Ask your representative to find the revenue necessary to avoid harmful budget cuts, restore full education funding and end this assault on our public schools.

This will take only a few minutes of your time, and it will be time well spent. Your representative needs to hear from you before Friday!

Pick up your telephone and strike a blow for freedom, democracy, education and sanity in government.


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