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.


Students frozen out of schools, education, maybe hope

February 9, 2011

Does the headline pertain to Dallas ISD’s being closed for cold weather for the fifth day in eight, or does it refer to the situations in Austin, where Gov. Rick Perry insists Texas is better off than the rest of the nation with a $25 billion deficit it can’t close, and all education institutions being given solitary confinement or death penalties?

Gov. Rick Perry, Texas State of the State Address, February 8, 2011

Photo by Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman; Dallas Morning News caption: "Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after delivering the State of the State address Tuesday, said there are 'no sacred cows' in the strapped Texas budget." Reality caption: Texas Emperor Rick Perry gives thumbs up to the lions who will face education's representative, Hypatia, in the Lege Arena fight-to-the-death; Perry promised not to be present for the final moments of the fight.


Perry to Texas Education: “Drop dead, but not as fast as before”

July 10, 2009

Texas Gov. Rick Perry named Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, to chair the State Board of Education.

Texas senators rejected Perry’s earlier nomination of Don McLeroy, R-Beaumont, due to McLeroy’s divisive tactics on board issues.  The chair must come from one of the board’s 15 elected members.

Perry was thought to favor a radical conservative to push the anti-education wishes of hard-core Republicans in Texas, whose vote Perry hopes to have in a tough fight for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010.  U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will try to oust Perry for the party’s nomination.  Some feared Perry would nominate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, who is even more radical than McLeroy.

In contrast, Lowe has been a relatively reliable vote against Texas teachers and science curricula, but she is not known to be as polarizing as McLeroy.  She has compromised on some issues, voting with educators and students.

Perry’s turning to Lowe indicates his disregard of education as an issue, and his writing off of the vote of Texas teachers and parents of students.  Perry could have named an experienced administrator and peace maker who could push the board to do its legally-mandated work on time, by nominating Bob Craig, R-Lubbock.  Perry’s turning to Lowe instead indicates that a working board is not among his priorities.

Lowe’s appointment to the chair probably is not so bad as a Dunbar appointment would have been.  But unless Ms. Lowe makes serious efforts to push for journeyman policy-making from board members, avoiding intentional controversies and simply resolving controversial issues that cannot be avoided, the SBOE will contined to be little more than political theatre in Austin, except when it actually rules on curricula and textbook issues.

Few expect the board to be a fountain of wisdom, or an example of education excellence over the next two years.

Perry’s action becomes not so bad as the potential slap in the face to Texas education that he might have delivered.  It’s the slap without a windup.  Texas students deserved a kiss instead.

Lowe will serve at least until the State Senate can act to approve or disapprove the nomination; the legislature will meet next in January 2011.  Lowe can serve for 17 months before the legislature meets.

Information:

Pre-nomination information:

Also at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Rick Perry’s education dilemma

June 25, 2009

Betsy Oney teaches in Arlington, Texas.  She’s a frontline soldier in the fight to educate our kids.

She also reads the newspapers and pays attention to what is going on at the highest levels in Texas government.  From her view, she describes better than anyone else I’ve seen, the problem facing Texas Gov. Rick Perry right now, after the Texas State Senate rejected Perry’s nominee to head the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy.

Betsy’s views appeared as an opposite-editorial piece in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on June 7, 2009:

Texas governor in a dilemma over education board pick

By BETSY ONEY
Special to the Star-Telegram

Gov. Rick Perry is in something of a Catch-22.

It started two years ago when he appointed dentist Don McLeroy to chair the State Board of Education. McLeroy is described by his many supporters as a “good and decent man,” and of that we can be sure.

McLeroy’s appointment came after the 80th Legislature adjourned, so he had to be confirmed during this year’s session. The confirmation failed in the Senate.

McLeroy’s supporters blame that on the fact that he’s a Christian. Records show that this Senate, and the House Public Education Committee in a July 16 hearing, were concerned not that he’s Christian but that McLeroy politicized Texas children’s education and led the board and the Texas education system into the spotlight. And what Texans and Americans saw in that light was a fairly grotesque parade of a few people — a majority faction of the board led by McLeroy — who listened to ideology instead of experts and were intent on imposing an antiquated education system on Texas children.

From that same elected board, Perry now must decide on a new chairman who, like McLeroy, will serve without scrutiny until the next legislative session, in 2011.

Perry’s decision is his Catch-22.

He probably won’t consider a Democrat. That leaves nine Republican possibilities. Seven are the radical members responsible for politicizing children’s education. They voted in lock step on a range of issues that individually and collectively have been widely seen by educators and lawyers as anything from illegal to unconstitutional to damaging children. Nominating from that pool might yield a different management style than McLeroy offered, but the ideology, intent and backward direction would remain the same.

The two remaining Republicans are conservative, but not extremists. Both District 11’s Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and District 15’s Bob Craig of Lubbock are well-qualified and would lead Texas public education in the right direction. In contrast to the radical members, they would be responsive to the changing educational needs that the future demands as well as to the rich diversity of children in our population.

Although Hardy has been mentioned as a nominee by senators, she’s recommending Craig.

Craig, an attorney, is a logical choice. He’s served on the board since 2002 and before that served on the Lubbock school board for 14 years. Craig is a “good and decent man,” but in contrast to McLeroy, his voting record and conciliatory demeanor show him to be a rational, uniting public education supporter. He listens to educators and experts. He respects the opinions of others. He votes in the interest of all children.

It’s clear that Perry could not make a better choice than Bob Craig. The Catch-22 is that by appointing a nonextremist, Perry risks losing support from his biggest donors, the religious right.

These donors see benefit in turning public education into religious education at taxpayer expense. They see benefit in keeping critical thinking out of the classroom. Their money is essential in his campaign against Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison in the next gubernatorial primary election.

If Perry appoints from the pool of radical rights, the voting public will be alerted that he’s sacrificing our children’s education and Texas’ future for his own political interests. So he’ll lose votes.

Money and ideology vs. public’s interest and, ultimately, its confidence. What a dilemma! Stay tuned.

Betsy Oney of Fort Worth holds a master of education degree and is a master reading teacher (and English-as-a-second-language teacher) in the Arlington school district.
Can you tell Ms. Oney is literate?  She tosses out “Catch-22” expecting us to know that that means!  She has high expectations for her audience.
Oney’s discipline in Texas schools is one of those insulted by new standards brought down from some mountain by the Texas SBOE in the past year, ignoring the work of Ms. Oney’s colleagues and professionals in her field.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Robert Luhn via Glenn Branch.

Texans want McLeroy gone, too

May 26, 2008

Texans who ought to know want Education Commissar Don McLeroy out, too — P. Z. Myers (“Fire Don McLeroy”) is not the only one.

In a letter reported in only one newspaper I’ve found, The Houston Chronicle, State Board of Education member Mary Helen Baranga of Corpus Christi asked Gov. Rick Perry to fire McLeroy.

Don McLeroy “has created havoc” as chairman of the State Board of Education and should be replaced, the senior member of the board said in a letter to Gov. Rick Perry.

“It is such a shame that after all these years of trying to improve public education in Texas, we are taking steps backwards because of Don McElroy,” Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi said in her letter to Perry, misspelling McLeroy’s name.

Berlanga, who has been on the 15-member board since 1984, said McLeroy’s leadership has been a disaster and asked Perry to replace him with “a moderate conservative who can work with all members of the State Board of Education and the citizens of this state.”

Gov. Perry said the SBOE should deal with the issues.

Has Perry forgotten what office he holds?   Nuts.


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