In order for the school finance crisis to be solved by the June 1st deadline, Republican legislators may have to overcome any hard feelings stemming from the contentious Republican primaries. Several Republican lawmakers fought off challengers in the primary – some of those challengers were backed by fellow House incumbents.
Now, Governor Perry is trying to bring the legislature together to replace Robin Hood and lower property taxes, which is a top priority for voters. Republicans will need to work together for that to happen.
DallasBlog’s very own Will Lutz was quoted in a recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the subject. "Voters made it real clear that they want this done by the June 1 deadline," Lutz said. "Anyone who doesn't get that is taking on a big risk."
There appears to be much ado over the Texas Democratic Party Chairmanship. As reported here first the current chairman, Charles Soechting, is resigning and the State Democratic Executive Committee, the party’s 64 member governing body will pick a replacement on April 22nd. A state convention will be held by law about three weeks later where a permanent replacement will be chosen by party delegates.
There are currently two announced candidates. One is Boyd Richie, a Young County (near Wichita Falls) lawyer, former DA, and husband of the Democratic National Committeewoman from Texas. The other is former Austin State representative Glen Maxey. However, Maxey today issued an email saying that he would not be a candidate for the interim job but would be at the convention. That same email accused unnamed “insiders” brought about the resignation of Soechting in order to give their chosen candidate, presumably Richie, the advantage of incumbency.
Maxey was the first openly gay member of the legislature and recently led the effort to defeat an amendment to the Texas Constitution intended to ban gay marriage. Many party regulars fear that with Maxey as chairman Democrats would be unable to attract the broad middle class of Texas and would be hampered in efforts to hold the state’s growing Hispanic vote. Others believe that Maxey is a real Democrat who would embrace a liberal agenda on both social and economic issues that would rally the state’s core vote.
However, it isn’t clear that Richie will be a candidate, or the only candidate to oppose Maxey. Rumors have constantly circulated that Richie will either withdraw from the race or withdraw from the convention race and only hold the position for a few weeks. So are no additional candidates have announced.
HD 63 runoff candidate Tan Parker announced today that he has received the endorsement of Rep. Mary Denny (R-Aubrey). Denny is retiring and currently represents the district in Austin. “Now that we are down to the runoff, there’s only one solid conservative with a record of Republican leadership, and that’s Tan Parker. Today, I’m proud to offer my wholehearted endorsement of Tan and encourage my supporters to vote for him on April 11. He ran a strong, grass-roots campaign based on reducing property taxes, reforming public education, and standing firm for faith and family. I know we can trust Tan to stay true to his conservative convictions and represent all areas of the district in Austin,” Denny said in making the endorsement. Parker is running against former Lewisville school board member Anne Lakusta in the Republican runoff. The district is solidly Republican.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, which is being sued over its mandatory “moment of silence” by two district area parents, has received an offer of legal assistance from a Plano legal foundation.
Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Legal Institute, told DallasBlog today that he has been in contact with attorneys for the suburban school district and offered his resources in the suit.
David and Shannon Croft of Carrollton filed suit in federal district court charging that Texas' mandated moment of silence in public schools, established in 2003, is unconstitutional. The Crofts say in the complaint that one of their children was told by an elementary school teacher to keep quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."
“These laws are part of the compromise everyone has worked out,” Sasser said. “Everyone agreed that we’re not going to have prayer but a moment of silence and let kids do as they wish. For someone to attack a moment of silence is really outrageous. These kids have a right to pray at school and we want the kids to have that option.”
Several new polls today that largely give Democrats reason for optimism in this year’s elections.
First, CBS News Poll shows that Americans are largely losing confidence in President Bush on fighting a war on terrorism. The poll shows that 45% have confidence in Bush but 47% have confidence in Congressional Democrats. The same poll shows that only 17% of Americans believe it is OK for a foreign ally of the US to manage ports while 42% say “never.” While this issue may fade before election the margins are so lopsided the issue has clearly helped move popular opinion against the President and his party on the security issue that has provided their past victory margins.
The CBS Poll also found that when respondents were asked to name what the considered to be the nation’s number one problem 20% volunteered “Iraq.” Amazingly, in the middle of a booming economy with a job creation engine in high gear 13% named either “jobs” or the “Economy.” Heath care rated a 4% response. The only good news for the administration was that “energy or fuel costs” drew only a 4% response indicating energy costs may not be a particularly resonant issue.
Today’s CNN poll offered more bad news for Republicans. First, 51% of Americans now believe President Bush intentionally “mislead” the people about Iraq while 46% don’t think so. When asked who they believe had a “plan to end the Iraq war” neither of the parties have the confidence of the people. By a margin of 32% to 67% respondents said the GOP had no plan but had even less confidence in Democrats where the margin was 25% to 68%
According to Senator Florence Shapiro, Dallas may not have to give up wealth to revenue poor districts once the Legislature fixes the Texas school finance system by June 1st. The Dallas Morning News reported that Shapiro and other legislators are looking to reduce Robin Hood districts across the state and that Dallas ISD will probably be removed from its status as a property rich district.
It is uncertain at this point, however, whether the Legislature will find a temporary fix to the school finance system, or a more permanent one.
If Dallas ISD is not removed from the list of property rich districts, it would have to give up $ 21.9 million to property poor districts. Dallas ISD would also lose about 21 million in state aid.
District officials are preparing for the possibility that they will lose funding this year and have to give up excess wealth under Robin Hood. Certain initiatives to increase spending on employee health insurance, pre-kindergarten programs, and teacher stipends are at risk.
A story in the March 15th edition of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram entitled "UNT professor, students believe contact with dead can aid healing" describes how a tenured professor at the University of North Texas Jan Holden holds seances and tries to conjure up the dead with her "graduate students" at UNT. Ms. Holden is the coordinator of the counseling program at the University of North Texas College of Education. Thus, she teaches future educators who counsel students in our public school system. According to the article, the UNT professor and her graduate students "believe that ghosts don’t haunt, they heal".
When asked by the reporter whether this was an appropriate area of research by a Texas university, Professor Holden responded as follows: "There is just no basis to say this is not a legitimate area of research. Thousands of people have had after-death communications, and probably what’s most hurtful is a culture that doesn’t prepare people for these experiences. I have no reason not to believe it’s real." Holden has been a professor at UNT since 1988.
UNT Professor Jan Holden facilitates these "induced after death communications" or IADCs. Ms. Holden is quoted as saying that the UNT group uses a technique called "eye movement desensitization and reprocessing" as a "steppingstone into an IADC".
The Telegram story says Ms. Holden and her graduate students traveled to Chicago last year to study under Allan Botkin, a "pioneer" and "contact-the dead guru".
The UNT professor will hold her next "induced after-death communication workshop" in April at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church.
It is incredible that someone with these bizarre beliefs is a tenured professor at one of our leading state universities and is teaching young people (who will be future counselors in our public schools) such nonsense. All of this is being done at taxpayer expense at a time of the declining quality of education in our public school system. Surely, the administrators at the University of North Texas should have better sense than to have education professors at their University promote such dubious propositions to the students they teach – paid for by the taxpayers of Texas.
To read the entire Ft. Worth Star Telegram story, link here. (Registration required)
The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees elections are coming up. Usually, school board elections draw a relatively low voter turnout, however, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an impact on the community.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wants to cut some jobs and programs for financial reasons. Whether or not he can do that will depend on who gets elected on May 13th.
Dallas Citizen's Council President Tom DunningEven Dallas' most esteemed business leaders want more money put into education. Dallas Citizens Council President Tom Dunning, in a newsletter message to members, says no local issue is more important than finding a solution to public school finance. The Citizens Council has consistently supported significant property tax relief and equitable distribution of the financial burden for education across all businesses as well as property owners. Furthermore, the DCC has asked the legislators to provide increased funding to address critical unmet needs in public education.
The Citizens Council's other top priorities for the year include weighing in on the city bond package and continuing to work on the Trinity River Project. Dunning calls for investment in more parks and open spacing for developing commnunities, particularly downtown residential development. "Not only must we be involved in helping to estalish the size and scope of the bond package, but we also must be ready to publicly support it," he writes.
As for the Trinity River Project, the DCC wants more federal funds, and will continue to work with Washington representatives to get those funds, as well as funding for the project in the city bond program. Since 1931, the Citizens Council has been a vehicle for business leaders to promote a favorable busineess climate and quality of life for Dallas citizens.
Frisco Fire Department is sending a crew to the panhandle to help fight the wildfires blazing in North Central Texas. Irving, Prosper and other suburban departments are sending men and equipment.
But bigger departments in North Texas haven't been requested to help and are keeping ready because of similar conditions in this area, Lt. Kent Wortley of the Fort Worth Fire Department said. Likewise, Dallas Fire-Rescuse has not been asked, according to DFD Lt. Joel Lavender, spokesman for the department.