Monday, September 26, 2005

Mr. Speaker Speaks

Mr. Speaker's local paper did a two part series on him and his school finance problem. The first part, Austin political maelstrom daunts education reform didn't add anything new to the debate. Just the Speaker playing the martyr and how he is still licking his wounds from all of those school superintendents that beat up on him over two special sessions:
"I get blamed for everything else, but I was not at the Alamo," Craddick quipped at a Midland Young Republicans luncheon Thursday at the Petroleum Club. He said the Battle of the Alamo primarily was fought over what the "Texicans" felt was the responsibility Mexico had shirked to provide schools.

Reinforcing his recent observation that education lobbyists blocked reforms, Craddick said he often has looked into the House gallery this year to see superintendents and their lobbyists "high-fiving it when we lost an amendment.

"It's very difficult to pass anything when all the school districts are for waiting on the Supreme Court," he said, referring to the pending court ruling on how the state's 1,056 districts will be funded.
When asked why the legislature failed the answer is because he couldn't keep his own party in line:
The speaker said numerous people have asked why legislators failed to enact reform when they control the House and Senate and every statewide office. But while the 150-member House has 87 Republicans, 12 often side with the 63 Democrats, making a 76 vote majority hard to achieve.

"I've voted more in the three years I've been speaker than all the speakers in history," Craddick said. "I don't mind voting, but it's unusual that I would have to. It's that tight."

He noted the GOP dissidents crossed party lines June 27 to bolster an amendment by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, supplanting House Bill 2 and forcing him to break a 74-74 tie to avoid spending $3.5 billion more than the state could afford.

The House had appropriated $30 billion for public school education in the current biennium and then OK'd $34 billion for 2005-07 in House Bill 2 last June 27 on a 77-70 vote. The proposal failed in the Senate.
Craddick tries to blame the problem again on administrators only wanting money and they don't agree, and that number, 65, appears:
"There was always the assumption the districts didn't want reform, they only wanted money. If you look at the bills, there were a lot of reforms in there that the districts never complained about."

Beneski said TASA didn't fight new accountability standards but did not like Craddick's plans to delay starting school until after Labor Day, have school board elections in November instead of May and institute a "65 percent rule" to require that much of districts' budgets to be spent for classroom instruction.

"Security is a big issue in Dallas and the urban districts," Beneski said. "Then you have non-instructional expenses for nurses, counselors, librarians and transportation, where the price of gasoline has gone up.
On to part 2, Craddick airs views on school finance and reform, where it comes pouring out:
With the state Supreme Court poised to rule on the "Robin Hood" system, Craddick will brook nothing but a complete overhaul -- lower property taxes, more accountability and transparency, course-ending exams, an emphasis away from books to technology and post-Labor Day school starts.

The Midland republican also wants a "65 percent rule" to mandate spending that much of districts' budgets in classrooms and to move school board elections from May to November.

"We're going to change the system one way or another," he told Midland Young Republicans at the Petroleum Club Thursday. "We may be there for two or three years, but we're going to get it done. It'll be a system fix.

"We don't need school board elections in gyms on an odd Saturday in the spring."

He said schools spend far too much on administration, vouchers should offer private school alternatives and districts need revenue caps along with lower taxes to avoid property value inflation. "We're not going to pour more money into this bottomless pit without reform," he said.

"As long as I'm speaker, we're not going to do it."
Oh, boy, there it is. "Robin Hood" gone, lower property taxes, more accountability, transparency, exams, Computers not books, post Labor-day start date, "65% Rule", November elections, vouchers, lower taxes, no more money into schools. Holy crap! Well that's all as long as he's still Speaker. I'll let this comment to the article do the talking:
"We're not going to pour more money into this bottomless pit without reform," "As long as I'm speaker, we're not going to do it."

I think perhaps we can take of the "as long as I'm speaker" part of this quote. Those folks in Austin that were elected to represent not dictate may not be back.
Either that or we need Santa Claus for Speaker for Craddick to get everything he wants.

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