September 18, 2004
Does Perry get it?

Rick Perry sure does want to come down on the losing side of the school finance debate, it seems to me.

While Gov. Rick Perry on Friday questioned whether a state district judge's ruling on public school finance would be upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said that state leaders should improve education regardless of the outcome of an appeal.

"Even if this is appealed and the state won, we can't let our schools be second-tier, second-rate," said Hutchison, R-Texas. "I think the Legislature and the leaders of our state should be focusing on doing what's right, not being forced by the courts. We know that we don't have a system that is fair in taxation

"We don't have a system that produces a quality education for every child in Texas and that should be our goal."

Hutchison, thought to be eyeing a Republican primary run against Perry in 2006, commented on the case after an appearance at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce convention.

Perry spoke to the same group earlier in the day. The governor then took questions from reporters on Wednesday's ruling by state District Judge John Dietz of Travis County, who said the state isn't putting sufficient money into the schools in violation of the Texas Constitution.

Dietz said a key factor in his ruling is a 10-point "educational achievement gap" between students who are well off and those from lower socioeconomic and bilingual families.

Perry took issue with the judge's comments.

"That's Judge Dietz's opinion and, with all due respect, that is one individual's opinion. I happen to think this state has made great progress," Perry said, citing improved scores among blacks and Hispanics on standardized tests.

"The Legislature is where this needs to be addressed, not in the courts."

Perry also questioned testimony during the trial that the richest schools have $1,000 more per child to spend than the poorest schools.

"I don't know that to be a fact," said Perry.

"Testimony before one judge is just that. This is going to go to the Supreme Court of the State of Texas."

Perry does realize that Highland Park was one of the plaintiffs in this suit, right? Does he really want to run for reelection in 2006 by telling a bunch of wealthy suburbanites who just won a lawsuit against the state over how their schools are funded that they're wrong? Call me crazy, but that doesn't sound like a winner to me. If KBH's comments aren't a shot across his bow, I don't know what could be a stronger signal. Cal Jillson is right: This is an opportunity for him to do what he'd normally not want to do, because he's got the perfect scapegoat to blame. If he doesn't do it now, he may very well not be able to do it later. As someone who really wants to see him tossed out of the Governor's mansion on his ear in 2006, this doesn't exactly fill me with sorrow, but I'd rather have school funding fixed. My fear is that Perry's lack of leadership will make things worse before they get better. I'd rather have him on board, even if it makes him harder to beat in two years. This is too important to screw up.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 18, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack