A little Sunday reading for those who aren't quite ready to let Special SessionPalooza fade into history just yet.
Q: The governor and many Republican legislators say more money for the schools isn't the only answer. They insist on imposing various "reforms" in how schools are administered. What do you think?
A:I happen to think that it is mainly a matter of money. Maybe some more reforms could be done, but if the current accountability system is administered fairly, schools will put the money where it's needed. Many of these proposed changes would put the state back to micromanaging the education system, which we tried to get away from in 1995 (with another major education bill). At that time, the Legislature decided it was best for the state to set out what students should know and when they should know it and let school districts decide how to accomplish that goal. I still believe that's the right approach.
I believed — and wrote — in early June that it would be pointless (and risky) for Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session if House Speaker Tom Craddick didn't agree to it and, in essence, get to dictate the school funding and tax relief terms.
Craddick already had warned the governor that he wanted to wait for the Texas Supreme Court to decide the state's appeal of a school finance lawsuit before requiring the Legislature to tackle the difficult issue again.
But Perry called one 30-day session and then another, and both failed, largely because Craddick never changed his mind.
The speaker was key because an increase in state taxes would be required to cut school property taxes, a goal more important to Perry and many Republican lawmakers than actually improving education. The state constitution requires the House take the first action on tax bills.
Perry tried. But the minimal plan he offered for education funding and property tax relief at the beginning of the summer didn't inspire success. It sold Texas short because it would have failed to provide the tax and revenue overhaul that the schools need.
Unlike the governor, Dewhurst and Craddick — Dewhurst more convincingly — have advocated a new, broad-based business tax to more adequately fund education and more fairly tap into the state's emerging 21st century economy.
But that idea, which would have made the effort worthwhile, wilted quickly in the long, hot, wasted summer.
If state leaders must blame some group outside the Capitol, they can blame the Texas PTA and our 650,000 members. Parents who have written tens of thousands of e-mail messages and letters and placed hundreds and hundreds of phone calls to elected officials. You can blame the parents and taxpayers of this state for not allowing the Legislature to push through inadequate funding for our children's education and harmful regulatory changes disguised as "reforms."
Why can't the Legislature pass something? You can blame PTA for that because parents told lawmakers that no bill is better than a bad bill and all the leadership proposed were bad school finance bills.
We are the Texas PTA 650,000 parents, teachers and others who care about children. And taxpayers. You can blame PTA if you want. But if you think there have been lots of calls, letters and e-mails in the past three years, just wait. Keep under-funding our children's schools, keep trying to disguise political agendas as "reforms," keep protecting the tax system that favors the business community, keep using textbook money for other purposes, keep squabbling amongst yourselves over your own petty agendas.
If you think you have heard from parents and taxpayers already, just wait. What you have heard before is a gentle spring rain of discontent compared to the ocean of disappointment and frustration that is ready to wash up on your shores.