Texas Democrats like kids, educating kids, and the teachers who educate them

June 26, 2010

Stark differences show up in the resolutions and platforms of the Texas Democrats, compared to the Texas Republicans.  Elections in Texas have great meaning and significance in 2010.

Messy and open to long and loud discussions as the Democrats are, final copies probably won’t be available on line until about Tuesday, after proofing and grammar editing.  But you may want to be aware of a few items.  In this post I offer only a very, very brief summary of the education planks, holding off on comment until I can analyze the planks further — except to note my delight at the name of the plank, “Reform of the Unbalanced State Board of Education.”

First, the convention passed at least three education resolutions guaranteed to please teachers and friends of education.

  • One resolution calls for stripping textbook approval authority from the State Board of Education, placing it instead with the education professionals at the Texas Education Agency.
  • Another resolution calls for fewer standard state tests, higher teacher pay, and repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act.
  • A third calls for outdoor education, to get students outside and to educate future citizens in conservation and recreation — the “No Child Left Inside Resolution.”

Some of these issues get double attention in the platform.  Democrats provides four-and-a-half pages of support for education from pre-kindergarten through graduate school.  It is the first series of planks in the Democratic platform, following the preamble immediately, under the major section “Education.”

Public Education Funding first calls for a “100% equitable school finance system with sufficient state revenue to allow every district to offer an exemplary program.”  Democrats call for an end to reliance on the “Robin Hood” system, an extension of the 22-pupil-per-class limit, or lower limits, and asks the federal government to fully fund mandates including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Excellent Schools for Every Student calls for universal access to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and after school programs for grades 1 through 12.  Democrats want a focus on up-to-date instructional materials.  One plank calls for opposition to “efforts to destroy bilingual education.”  Another calls for all students to become proficient in English and “at least one other language.”  This section also urges reduction in “high-stakes tests, used to punish students and school systems.”

Solving the Dropout Crisis includes an explanation that dropouts do not get jobs and pay they might otherwise get, and at a cost to all Texas households.  Solutions suggested include community-wide efforts to serve at-risk students and their families, including expanded early childhood education to help at-risk students.

Effective Teachers for Every Student calls for a raise in teacher and support staff pay, “exceeding the national average.”  Democrats suggest state-funded health insurance to all education employees.  There are planks calling for certified teachers in every classroom, an encouragement of diversity in teachers, and teacher performance measures that look at everything teachers do.  This is targeted at a Republican plank, described as “plans to use narrow test results instead.”

There is a call for beefed up pension support for retired teachers, and for the repal of “the federal government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions that unfairly reduce Social Security benfirts for educational retirees and other public employees.”

Reform of the Unbalanced State Board of Education offers few specifics, but does complain about the current SBOE’s having “made a laughingstock of our state’s process for developing and implementing school curriculum standards that determine what our students learn.”  The plank specifically mentions recent fights on science standards, language arts standards, and social studies standards.  Democrats also call for “sober fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund, exposing and prohibiting conflicts of interest.”

Making Our Schools Safe Havens for Learning calls for students and teachers to be safe from violence in schools, including bullying.  Democrats support the Dignity for All Students Act.

Higher Education calls for opportunities to go to college to be available to all students who wish to pursue a higher education.  Democrats complain about “tuition deregulation’s” effects, which they say has been to financially burden especially students from poorer families.  Democrats want state support to help ease the burdens.

Community Colleges generally supports community colleges, with similar calls for funding, and support of student opportunities.

Diversity calls for support for diversity programs in schools, community colleges and universities.

A quick comparison with the platform Republicans passed at their convention in Dallas two weeks ago shows some clear lines of demarcation between the two Texas groups.  The Texas Tribune, that already-great on-line publication, offers a copy of the Republican platform here.  Won’t you join me in analyzing it, and the Democratic platform, and discussing the differences?  Comments are open.  Please do.


Bill White: Texas’ best days ahead

June 26, 2010

Nice drive to Corpus Christi for the Texas Democratic Convention.  Long drive.  Very long drive.  One yearns for the days when flying inside Texas was much more affordable.

The advantage, of course, is seeing Texas.  “Miles and miles of Texas” as Asleep at the Wheel might sing. (Love those twin fiddles.) (Watch it here, from Austin City Limits in the ’80s)

Interstate 35 traffic frustrates several million people a day.  One cannot drive through Austin without a slowdown at any hour of most business days.  Once-clear country roads are congested.  Clearly that problem needs some attention.

It’s a stirring and interesting sight that greets you coming into Corpus Christi on I-37.  From a distance you’ll see the massive wind farm, huge windmills cranking out electricity, almost a vision of a cleaner future through the haze.  Closer into town the windmills can be seen through the industrial maze of oil refineries.  It probably can’t be photographed well except from the air, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition of the changes Texas lives through, and the challenges ahead.  I was reminded of the “successful labor-management negotiation” workshops:

Hope for the future, a picture of reality . . . now, what are the plans to proceed?

I missed most of the activity on Friday while driving.  Other blogs and news organizations offer good coverage.  Texas Blue carried the full advanced text.  (Also see The Austin American-Statesman, the AP story in The Dallas Morning News, and Texas Observer)

White’s speech contrasts quite starkly with Rick Perry’s a few weeks ago, in which he seemed confused by geography, “blaming” White’s “Washington ways” for Houston’s successes under White’s leadership.

Bill White’s speech pleased the crowd.  Not fire and brimstone; enough humor that most delegates smiled all the way through, but full of substantive contrasts between Rick Perry’s policies and those White wishes to pursue instead.  Parts of the speech carry the mark of brilliant speech writing, especially in the breezy, pleasant way White paints the policy differences.  Here’s the end of the speech:

Rick Perry will claim he represents Texas values. But Perry’s Texas is different than our Texas.

In Rick Perry’s Texas insurance and utility rates rise faster than in other states. In our Texas wages will go up faster because we invest in people.

In Rick Perry’s Texas we import nurses and welders and other skilled workers from abroad. In our Texas we will train more Texans to do those jobs.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the State Board of Education injects political ideology into classrooms. In our Texas we’ll put more computers in our classrooms.

In Rick Perry’s Texas state boards and agencies are pressured from the top to serve those who help the Governor’s re-election. In our Texas government will be the servant, not the master, and our customers will be ordinary Texans.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the governor threatens to leave the world’s greatest country. He is content [to] allow our state to compete with Mississippi for lack of social progress. In our Texas other states will follow Texas because we will be the leader.

In Rick Perry’s Texas citizens are stuck in traffic in big cities because the Texas Department of Transportation was doing the bidding of a foreign company promoting the land grab known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. In our Texas we will work across party lines for a new mobility plan, assisting commuters to get from home to work and all communities to get their goods to market.

In Rick Perry’s Texas the best days may be behind us. In our Texas our best days are ahead of us.

Let us go from this convention, staffing phone banks, knocking on doors, and sending emails. Lift up all who share our values, from the courthouse to the statehouse to the double-wide trailer Andrea and I will live in while the Mansion is rebuilt. Describe to friends and neighbors, from both parties, the simple choice we face in the governor’s race.

Rick Perry is in it for Rick Perry. By the grace of God and with your help, I’m in it for Texas, for you.

Bill White at Texas Democratic Convention, 6-25-2010

Bill White, after his speech at the Texas Democratic Convention - R. G. Ratcliff photo, Houston Chronicle blogs

It was one of the most positive speeches I’ve heard at conventions in a long time — takes me back to Mo Udall at the 1976 National Democratic Convention, or Ted Kennedy’s at the 1980 convention.  White came down in favor of education, roads and lower taxes, and good government in general.  Cleverly, astoundingly, each of his jabs at Rick Perry was on a substantive, policy issue, and not just a one-liner.  No lipstick on pigs, not even a silver foot-in-the-mouth (apologies to Ann Richards, but not to Sarah Palin).

You have to wonder what this guy was listening to:

“In delivering one of the most negative speeches by a nominee for Texas governor in modern history, Bill White continues to run a campaign of no substance,” said Perry campaign spokesperson Mark Miner. “Governor Perry’s proven leadership, Texas values, and priorities of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and job creation have made our state the envy of the nation.”

The race is on, and the choices are already very, very clear.

Update:


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