I was shocked to read an article in The New York Times about how Texas public schools are coping with the draconian school budget cuts laid down by, yes, the Republican-controlled Legislature and one-time Republican presidential candidate and governor of the Lone Star State, Mr. Rick Perry.
When I read this, I thought hey, perhaps, just maybe, these politicians are not really pendejos. Maybe they’re just clueless about public education because their children attend private schools. Then again, maybe they are a bunch of pendejos. Or maybe they’re both.
$844 million cuts deep
Around this time last year, the Texas Legislature cut funding for education, health, and human services. According to the Texas Tribune, in 2011 the cuts included $11.3 billion from health and human services and $844 million from public and higher education. OK, fine. Times are tough, right?
But hold on there, Hoss. The fine people at the Texas Tribune also point out in that 2011 article that “the budget for border security nearly doubles, to $219.5 million from $111 million in the current budget.” Hay Caramba!
All this sounds like what’s happening all over the country. Budgets and spending cuts are boring. They’re all about math, and it’s so difficult to follow along. They are not the clear, pretty, powerful sound-bites politicians say during elections. So, most of us just shrug and think, well, they must know what they’re doing. We’re all tightening our belts. Times are tough.
But that’s what Manny Fernandez of the New York Times does so well in his recent article. He brings the pain back home to regular folks like us. What do school budget cuts do to schools? They hurt everyone, not just the janitors and the bus drivers and the teachers. They hurt the students.
Fernandez’s article talks about 16 year-old Aubrey Sandifer, who now has to walk 20 minutes to and from school every day. Teachers have to do janitorial work. Because of school budget cuts, schools have to increase the number of periods to avoid overcrowded classrooms.
One school district had to close an elementary school, and is transferring fifth-grade students to middle school. Yet, according to Fernandez, lawmakers have played down the impact of the current $5.4 million in cuts, and Perry himself says the schools have enough money.
Texas leads in job growth, lags in student achievement
But if you think Texas is suffering an economic depression like much of the country, think again. An August 2011 ABC News article says that of all U.S. jobs created since June 2009, 30 percent were in Texas. More than two dozen Chinese firms are in Texas and Chinese firms make up one-third of Texas’ trading partners.
So, the Republican-led government of Texas is keeping taxes low through school budget cuts that result in under-educated Texan children.
Well here are some burritos for thought: According to Texas Democrat Eliot Shapleigh, Texas ranks lowest in the nation for high school graduation rates and almost last in SAT scores. Hispanics make up 37 percent of the state’s population, and by 2035 Hispanics will be the majority in Texas.
The fact is that people with less education make less money. And people without a proper education can easily be swayed by lies and simple sound-bites instead of looking at the numbers and researching facts.
This really works for Republicans.
Perhaps their plan with these school budget cuts is to dumb down the population so more of them get elected. But wait: Texas has a Republican-led Legislature and it’s had a Republican governor since 1995. Maybe it’s already too late.
Put your vote where it counts, people!