Thursday, December 01, 2005

Texas GOP Wants To Forget The Last 12 Months Even Happened

As I read this article and what I've looked at since the Supreme Court ruling a couple of weeks ago it has become apparent that the Texas GOP sees Gov. Rick Perry's appointed judges ruling as a ratification of what it attempted - and was repeatedly rejected, by legislators, school officials and the public - over the past year. With all three branches of government now lined up in agreement It's back to vouchers and attacking school districts:
House Republican leaders, emboldened by the Texas Supreme Court's school finance order, spelled out a broad agenda Tuesday that will probably stir strong opposition from education groups and local school officials – including a study on whether districts should be merged to save money.
What is that broad agenda you ask? Well it' I think you may recognize this:
Mr. Grusendorf and other GOP leaders have cited last week's Supreme Court order as lending support to initiatives they pushed all year - ideas that put them at odds with virtually every education group and school district in the state. Those heated battles are expected to continue in a special session next spring on school taxes and spending and in the next regular session in 2007.
That's right, we're right back to where we started at the beginning of last session. It's like last year didn't even happen as far as the Texas GOP leadership is concerned. It's almost like they knew that if they didn't get their agenda through this year they had Gov. Perry's hand picked judges waiting in the wings to give them a second crack at it.

And of course in the above article and this one from the Houston Chronicle, Education lobby's expense scrutinized, we are all supposed to be outraged that the public schools decided to fight back. I guess the Texas GOP would rather they just "..lie back and enjoy it."? Here is the basic argument. Speaker Craddick lost on vouchers and the rest of the right-wing school agenda he championed and he blames those that lobbied against him:
Through their collective voices, school districts and teacher groups enjoyed exceptional influence at the Capitol this year as they defeated legislation they said provided inadequate new funding and intruded on local control.

That angered state leaders, including House Speaker Tom Craddick, who charged two committees with investigating the use by local governments and school boards of taxpayer money to lobby the Legislature.
On the other side are the schools that, with the way "business" is conducted in our legislative branches of government have no choice but to lobby the legislature:
Alief ISD does not hire lobbyists but does pay dues to the Texas Association of School Boards, which employs lobbyists. The association spent up to $650,000 on eight lobby contracts, according to the Public Justice report.

Sarah Winkler, a board member who often testifies at the Capitol and is reimbursed only for her travel expenses, said she is offended by the investigation.

"The whole reason they're looking into this is they do not want school boards and superintendents to go to Austin and advocate for their school districts," she said. "That's part of my job, to get the resources students in our district need to be successful."
You can read the report here, which gives us this little nugget:
Here's the The education lobby reported spending up to $6.3 million on 161 lobby contracts by the end of this year’s special sessions. This huge expenditure falls short of the up to $6.9 million that a single corporation spent on lobbyists in this period. Yet few state leaders have denounced the SBC lobby (now called AT&T), which persuaded them to swallow a sweetheart special-session communications bill.
Sweetheart indeed.

[UPDATE] Here's what Texan of the Year Rep. Carter Casteel said about this issue:

How in the world can the Ed. Community communicate with the legislature without coming up there and talk to them. If you want to call it lobby, fine. But people go on their own time and write letters. People have made the same complaints against everybody that comes up to the legislature.

That being said, I’d rather see my tax dollars being used to educate children. If that’s not happening, then I want my tax dollars to communicate with the legislature on behalf of what’s not happening. I don’t know what the rule is, but we’ll see if a rule is going to be proposed.


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