Tag Archives: Education

Perry Issues More Than Two Dozen Vetoes Friday

15 Jun
Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the R...

Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Please attribute to Gage Skidmore if used elsewhere. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perry Issues More Than Two Dozen Vetoes
by Aman Batheja and Jay Root


Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.

Gov. Rick Perry, taking aim at a powerful but embattled Travis County Democrat, used his line-item veto power Friday to eliminate millions of dollars in state funding for the prosecutors who investigate public corruption cases in the state capital.

Perry said he vetoed the funding because the investigative unit had “lost the public confidence.” He was referring to the recent DWI conviction — and unruly jailhouse behavior — of Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office oversees the public integrity unit. Democrats accused Perry of trying to shut down state corruption investigations.

It was the most prominent and controversial veto of more than two dozen he issued Friday evening. Including two previous vetoes, Perry nixed from the regular 2013 session a total of 26 bills and several line-item appropriations from two state budget bills.

Among the other measures wiped out by his veto pen Friday: Senate Bill 17, a $10 million measure, backed by conservatives, that would have provided state training for armed classroom teachers; HB 950, the state Lilly Ledbetter Act, designed to prevent wage discrimination against women; and Senate Bill 219, which would have required Texas railroad commissioners, who oversee the oil and gas industry, to resign before running for another state office.

Perry also nixed House Bill 217, which restricts the sale of some sugary drinks for certain public school kids; House Bill 1160, which would have made it easier for towns with populations of no more than 2,500 and water rates at least 50 percent higher than some nearby cities to obtain the rights to run their water systems; and House Bill 2836, which had ordered a study of the state’s curriculum standards and limits the number of benchmark exams school districts can administer locally.

The governor’s veto of a higher education oversight bill, SB 15, was not entirely unexpected but it generated plenty of heat Friday night. Legislators from both parties accused the University of Texas System Board of Regents of micromanaging the University of Texas at Austin and harassing its president, Bill Powers. The bill, which would have reined in regent power, included a provision that regents could not fire a university president without a recommendation from a chancellor.

But Perry, who appoints university regents, ensured that they kept all their power and authority.

“Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents,” Perry said, “is a step in the wrong direction. History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance.”

The bill had been the subject of intense negotiations between supporters and Perry’s office. The original bill included a requirement that regents appointed during the interim could not vote on budget or personnel matters until the Senate Nominations Committee had considered them or 45 days had passed. After negotiations with the governor’s office, the number of days was lowered to 20 and then the provision was eliminated entirely. But that concession was not enough to save the bill.

That veto and others provoked some bipartisan outrage.

The author of the UT board bill, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, described the veto as a blow to the state’s public universities.

“Given the continued lack of transparency and persistent conflicts, this legislation clearly was necessary, due in no small part to some of Governor Perry’s appointees,” Seliger said. “The decision to veto SB 15 ensures that the conflicts, controversies, and lack of transparency will continue. It harms the reputation of Texas’ world class public universities and hinders their ability to attract the best students, faculty, and administrators to this great state. ”

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, author of the gun training bill for school employees, also criticized the decision to veto his bill. He said the $10 million cost assigned to the legislation was inflated and grossly inaccurate. He also complained that no one had called his office to discuss a possible veto.

“What really infuriates me is his staff doesn’t know how to read the legislation,” Patrick said. “He got bad advice.”

Democrats, meanwhile, were incensed about Perry’s veto of the gender equality bill.

“Once again our governor has made women’s health and women’s rights a target in order to bolster his own political standing,” said Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, author of the bill and often mentioned as a potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate.

Perry has authority to nix both bills and individual spending items. According to calculations by the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities, Perry vetoed a total of $29 million in general revenue spending.

He made several line-item vetoes in House Bill 1025, a key budget bill of the session. The targeted vetoes include a series of special funding items at higher education institutions including $2 million for the petroleum engineering program at Texas A&M International University and $1.5 million for the Department of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as smaller appropriations at the the University of North Texas, Prairie View A&M University and the University of Houston.

In a statement, Perry explained those vetoes as his effort to combat rising tuition, which he attributed in part to the rise in “non-formula funding” at higher education institutions to launch new academic programs that never go away.

“Institutions are rarely held accountable for these funds, which is why many of them stay in the budget, year after year, even after their purpose is no longer clear,” Perry wrote.  “This is not the best use of hard-earned tax dollars.”

His veto of the funding for Travis County’s public integrity unit is unprecedented and far-reaching.

It is aimed squarely at Lehmberg, who helped prosecute the criminal case against former Republican U.S. Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Lehmberg’s career and reputation took a nosedive since she was convicted and jailed for drunk driving in April.

During a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol earlier Friday, the governor pointed to the humiliating videotape of Lehmberg’s arrest and initial jailing. The video shows a clearly impaired Lehmberg acting belligerent and unruly. She cried, kicked the door of her jail cell and repeatedly demanded that deputies call Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.

“Travis County is going to have to make a decision about whether or not they keep a district attorney who obviously has some real problems,” Perry said. “People who have looked at the videos I think will come to the same conclusion as most folks, that that was pretty inappropriate activity.”

Perry’s office had made it clear that he would yank state funding for the fraud-busting unit unless Lehmberg resigned, even though prosecutors said it would inflict major damage on their ability to ferret out government corruption in Austin. The head of the unit, Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox, said the unit has 35 employees and is handling more than 400 cases.

“It’s an entire division of the district attorney’s office, three separate units and it’s significant blow to the office,” Cox said.

Democratic activists have questioned whether Perry was using his power to halt or cripple investigations into agencies that he helps oversee as governor —including the ongoing investigation of the troubled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

A liberal watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice, said Perry “likely” violated one of several laws that the group says prohibits public officials from using their office to coerce action from another. They filed a complaint, both with Lehmberg and County Attorney David Escamilla, also a Democrat.

TPJ director Craig McDonald said the line-item veto and Perry’s nixing of the ethics sunset bill — the one that would have barred railroad commissioners from running for office without first resigning — was disappointing but not surprising.

“Perry sits atop what many believe is the most corrupt regime in recent Texas history. It’s no surprise he wants to kill ethics reform and  wipe out the state’s public corruption watchdog,” he said. “Perry’s office is an ethical black hole. Ethics reform goes in. Nothing comes out.”

Reeve Hamilton, Morgan Smith and Alana Rocha contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/06/14/senator-perry-vetoed-equal-pay-bill/.


Tech Leaders Encourage Teaching Schoolkids How To Code

7 Jun


In Report, Texas University History Departments Face Scrutiny

10 Jan

In Report, University History Departments Face Scrutiny
by Reeve Hamilton, The Texas Tribune, http://texastribune.org/

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, three conservative groups — the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the National Association of Scholars and the Texas Association of Scholars — will release a sure-to-be controversial report alleging that the University of Texas and Texas A&M University offer students “a less-than-comprehensive picture of history.”

The report’s rollout is part of a three-day policy orientation by the TPPF, an Austin-based think tank that has been tied to some of the state’s most hotly-debated proposed higher education reforms. It signals a renewed push to reconsider the course offerings in the history departments of the state’s public universities, and particularly to boost the number of courses dedicated to the study Western Civilization.

Jeremi Suri, a prominent historian at UT who has already read the report, called it disappointing.

“I have a lot of respect for the National Association of Scholars. They spend a lot of time defending free speech, and I’m a big believer in free speech, but this report is just so off base. It’s just not accurate.”

Written by Richard Fonte, the former director of the We the People program at the National Endowment for the Humanities, the study examined the background of professors and the syllabi for 85 courses offered in the fall of 2010 that could have counted toward the state’s requirement that students at public institutions take two American history classes.

“We found that all too often the course readings gave strong emphasis to race, class and gender social history, an emphasis so strong that it diminished the attention given to other subjects in American history (such as military, diplomatic, religious, intellectual history),” Fonte wrote.

He contended that the prevalence of so-called “RCG” — race, class and gender — assignments was more of an issue at UT than at A&M. He determined that too many courses were highly specialized, and also noted that major historical figures were being overlooked at both universities, with only rare mentions of “Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Dewey, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas A. Edison, the Wright brothers or the scientists of the Manhattan Project.”

Thomas Lindsay, the director of the TPPF’s Center for Higher Education, said in a statement that his organization “is pleased to be a part of launching this study, which will help universities and administrators to return to teaching American history in its fullness.”

“Strengthening the teaching of American history, government, and Western Civilization is at the very core of our recommendations for reform,” he added.

In December, Lindsay was among the authors of a TPPF report that suggested that “university regents and other administrators should be encouraged to institute reforms that place more focus on teaching students basic American history, government, economics, and Western Civilization, whether through a standardized test or more course options/requirements.”

This new report recommends that the universities have their curriculum reviewed, hire new faculty members with broader interests, make sure survey courses remain broad in scope and “depoliticize history.” The report will be given to the leadership at the universities.

“We hope that they will read it and consider it instead of judging it without reading it,” said Ashley Thorne, director for the study of the curriculum at the National Association of Scholars.

She acknowledged that the group is accustomed to taking controversial stances, including a strong opposition to affirmative action, which UT recently defended before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Suri said the UT history program has a strong emphasis in military, political and diplomatic history; some on the left argue it’s too strong, he added.

Suri, author of Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama, said that departmental focus was one of the primary reasons he came to UT. He said the report makes no mention of a new university center focused on diplomacy and national security, or of the Normandy Scholars program, which offers students an intense focus on World War II and is one of UT’s signature offerings.

“There is political correctness in the academic world, and academics — like people in any field — tend to follow fashions and trends. And sometimes that’s a problem,” he said. “But that’s not a problem with the teaching of history in this department. They just chose the wrong thing.”

Fonte said he anticipated that the university would defend itself against his findings and acknowledged that the report makes assumptions about courses based on their assigned readings. Suri argues that an accurate understanding of the nature of a course requires more involvement than merely a review of the syllabus from a single semester.

“Come sit in, come engage us, if you really care,” Suri said, extending the same invitation to curious legislators.

Anxiety about the history curriculum at Texas public universities is nothing new for state legislators. One of the most memorable debates on the House floor during the 82nd legislative session occurred when state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, proposed an amendment requiring that universities dedicate 10 percent of their courses to instruction in “Western Civilization.”

The amendment failed, in part because of his inability to articulate his motivation for offering it.

When Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, pressed him on what he meant by “Western Civilization,” Christian provided the following response:

Similarly frustrated with Christian’s responses to questions about whether the abolitionist movement or Native American studies would be included in the requirement, state Rep. Raphael Anchia, D-Dallas, publicly speculated that the motivation behind the amendment was “very political and potentially insulting,” and argued that UT and other universities should be “free from this type of manipulation and political statement on the House floor.”

Christian will not be returning this session; he lost his bid for re-election. But Thursday’s press conference is a strong indication that his proposal — or something resembling it — might.

Lindsay told the Tribune that he did not think the discussion should be as contentious as it was in the previous session. “This transcends any party differences,” he said. “Democracy is not a gift. It’s something that each generation has to earn, and the current generation must teach to the up and coming generation.”

As for race, class, and gender, both Lindsay and Fonte said those topics should be taught, but with less of an emphasis than they believe currently exists.

“Those are all aspects of American history,” Lindsay said. “Students should be introduced to all of them, because you want students to have a broad understanding of American history.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://trib.it/VU1Cql.

This Is How You Beat The Tea Party?

20 Jun

Save the Troy Library “Adventures In Reverse Psychology

With no budget and just a few weeks to do it, the folks in this town kicked butt.

The city of Troy, Michigan was facing a budget shortfall, and was considering closing the Troy Public Library for lack of funds. Even though the necessary revenues could be raised through a miniscule tax increase, powerful anti-tax groups in the area were organized against it. A vote was scheduled amongst the city’s residents, to shut the library or accept the tax increase, and Leo Burnett Detroit decided to support the library by creating a reverse psychology campaign. Yard signs began appearing that read: “Vote to Close Troy Library on August 2nd – Book Burning Party on August 5th.” No one wants to be a part of a town that burns books, and the outraged citizens of Troy pushed back against the “idiotic book burners” and ultimately supported the tax increase, thus ensuring the library’s survival.


My Voting Guide for Hidalgo

14 May

Symbol keep vote

Symbol keep vote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early voting starts TODAY, Monday the 14th on to the 25th.

You may vote from 7am to 7pm at any one of the 25 polling places.

Information voting location is here for Hidalgo is here, http://bit.ly/JzPy9t

You should vote because you should care about the issue(s) health, education, economy, environment, immigration, religion, privacy, war, etc.

Who we vote for makes decision on these issues that affect us all.

Do you like paying taxes? Either way, the government spends you tax money, whether it be a little or a lot, the people who get elected help decide how it should spent?

You determines who gets elected to congress, which is in charge of coming up with the yearly budget and apportionment of state money. 

More information about voting in the RGV is here http://aactnow.org/


If you don’t know who to vote for, here are my selections for your consideration.

Some of the races apply only to the district I live on.

(Share it with people who don’t know who to vote for or just need information)


US Senator

Paul Sadler

The only candidate  who has held public office, Sadler experience consists of hist time in the Texas House from 1991 to 2003

Sadler, said in a political forum that he’d “taken the arrows” in office — even received death threats over his efforts to reform the state tax code.

 “I have more experience with tax codes than any other person in the U.S. Senate,” he said.



Member of Congress District 15

 Ruben Hinojosa

He is an incumbent who supports education and has experience.

He has worked for the betterment of our district. When the administration was prepared to compromise on the budget by cutting funding for college loans, he rallied others in Congress to refuse the deal and protected low-income students from losing an opportunity to get an education.


State Representative District 40

Agustin Hernandez

The best candidate is Agustin Hernandez, his reasoning for running and his proposals on his website are very convincing and well thought out.


As I was doing research for this I am looking these people up. I have met most of them, Mr Betancourt doesn’t even have a website or it is hard to find. Terry Canalez is an attorney with no real experience or valuable convincing reason being elected. Robert Pena has the experience,  he was in a school district and has been part of several business organizations, he would be the candidate that would most likely care for business interest most of all.


Referendum #1 – FOR


Any graduate of a Texas high school, who has lived in the state for at least three years and lived here continuously for the last year, should be eligible for in-state tuition at state supported colleges and universities and given the opportunity to earn legal status through a higher education or military service.


If these students did the work, made the grades, and have lived in Texas for a long time they should be able to go to college. When they graduate, they would become great additions to our state. If they are going to college they are not criminals. Education should be a universal right


Referendum #2 – FOR


Because a college education is increasingly necessary for jobs that allow our citizens to achieve middle class lifestyles and become the entrepreneurs who create the jobs that our economy relies on, we call on the Texas Legislature to fund colleges and universities such that tuition and fees can be affordable to all Texans.


Education is a social equalizer and helps people greatly increase their ability to progress. Students are graduating with greater amounts of debt.

The Texas legislature cut a lot of money to education last year in the 2011 congressional session.  Colleges have been affected; they have had to cut down the number of teacher and other areas of school which affects students.

We need to invest in our education to have better inventors, teachers, doctors, scientists, etc. That will bring progress to our state and country.



Referendum #3 – FOR


 Should the Texas Legislature allow the people of Texas to vote to legalize casino gambling with all funds generated being used only for education?


We need to keep the money in Texas, people gamble when they do they have to go spend all that money in Las Vegas or other locations, we should keep the money here.

The money needed to support our education system needs to come from somewhere and since corporations don’t want to pay taxes some institution must.

It absence of the Legislature’s willingness to provide needed income to the State, this is an alternative that should be acceptable.


Turnout and voter registration in Texas (by the numbers)



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