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March 13th, 2011:

Weekend link dump for March 13

Happy spring break!

Are we not men? We are WINNING!

For it before he was against it, and now he’s just being dishonest about it.

Newt-mentum is in short supply.

“Being a hack means never having to admit that you were wrong.”

How to use math to fight spammers and hackers.

Ever wonder why you can’t dance? Wonder no more.

Debunking some myths about public education.

When old news is new news.

They only call it class warfare when the have-nots fight back.

The problem with using Facebook as a blog comment system.

Remember in the movie “Minority Report” how personalized ads followed Tom Cruise everywhere he went? We’re getting closer to that future.

Wanna meet astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Get out your pencil and start writing an essay.

Our annoying yuppie future.

The Republican war on voting continues apace.

How well do you know the geography of northern Africa/the Middle East/Central Asia? Go here and find out. Thanks to MeMo for the link.

Lift the stay!

Perhaps our robot overlords are more benign than we think.

A little Vogon poetry about baseball to brighten your day.

Cracking down on patent trolls is a no-brainer and long overdue.

Some terrorists are more terroristic-y than others.

The way to reduce traffic is to make it easier for those who don’t have to drive to not drive.

Doing well by doing good.

Why hospitals should be more like airlines.

What has PBS ever done for you?

Leave peanut butter alone!

Continuity isn’t everything.

How much do attitudes about science have to do with the way scientists talk about science?

The coolest thing about this is learning that Digby has a real, full name.

Blind spots and ideology.

Hit him where it hurts.

Can you hear them now, Rep. King?

Thousands attend the Save Texas Schools rally

Our voices have been heard. Whether we are listened to remains to be seen.

Parents, educators, and students from across the state marched to the Capitol Saturday for the Save Texas Schools rally to express their concern over what could amount to a $10 billion reduction in state funding for schools.

Initial estimates put attendance around 4,000. But during the event, organizers said they had to stop counting — they had volunteers marking people with stickers — at 11,000. Capitol police were more conservative, putting the number at around 8,000. Representatives from over 300 school districts were in attendance, according to Save Texas Schools. The crowd spanned several city blocks as it marched up Congress to the Capitol and participants filled up most of the building’s south lawn when they arrived.

During the two-hour event, speakers included Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, and Perrin-Whitt CISD superintendent John Kuhn. Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business, was also slated to speak, but sent a text message Saturday morning saying he would be unable to because he had sprained his ankle, said Save Texas Schools spokesman Jason Sabo.

In addition to tapping the Rainy Day fund, rally-goers urged Gov. Rick Perry to sign the application for the $830 million currently tied up in a political fight in Congress from the federal Education Jobs fund. They also asked lawmakers to fix the state’s public education funding mechanism.

More here, here, here, and here, with the latter reminding us that the rallying isn’t over yet:

Most lawmakers were not in the Capitol on Saturday but will be in their offices on Monday when teachers plan to use their spring break to make the point again.

Rob D’Amico, spokesman for the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, predicted more than 3,400 teachers, school employees, parents and school board members would flood the Capitol, “a great way to continue the momentum from Saturday.”

For this to be a success, it cannot be a one-day, or one-week occurrence. Everybody needs to keep up the pressure throughout the legislative session, and then into the election season. We’re obviously not going to get everything we want out of this, but even if we get something approaching an acceptable amount, it will mean nothing if current officeholders don’t lose their jobs over it as well. It’s not just about the policy, it’s about the politics. The message is that not funding education is not an option, and anyone who isn’t on board with that is part of the problem. We’ve delivered part of that message now, but it’s just a down payment on what must come next November. EoW and Juanita have more.

UPDATE: More reports, from Stace and PDiddie.

Hard times for high school athletics

High school football may be a big deal in Texas, but high school sports are not immune to budget cuts.

With school districts across the state facing major budget cuts, members of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association met for their annual conference with a focus on finding ways to limit expenses.

The attending athletic directors said it was nice to see they weren’t alone in their budgetary struggles.

“It’s not that misery loves company by any means,” Houston ISD athletic director Marmion Dambrino said. “But it is good to know and listen to ideas of how others are dealing with these budget issues. It’s all about how creative we can become with what it is that we are doing.”


UIL executive director Dr. Charles Breithaupt spoke on Tuesday about the attention athletics receive during budget cuts because of the publicity the programs receive. School boards also debate the stipends coaches receive when expenses have to be cut.

“I want to give them the message of hope,” Breithaupt said. “Why things are bleak financially across the state and across the national, parents and kids still want to participation in athletic programs. Really, athletics are the biggest bang for your buck that a school district can get. Research shows that students who participate in athletics attend school more regularly, focus in the classroom and have fewer discipline referrals.

“Knowing all of that, what better program can you have than that at a school?”

I appreciate his passion for the job, but I’m sure you could say the same about a school’s music department, and we know what will happen with them. You know that my preference is for there to be no cuts, but that’s not a possibility. Given that, athletics will have to shoulder their fair share of the burden. I wish the ADs luck in figuring out how to make the most they can from less.

Huffman says nothing about public education

Republican State Sen. Joan Huffman writes an op-ed in the West U Examiner about public education that manages to say absolutely nothing of substance.

As the mother of a public school student, I am a firm supporter of Texas public schools and I share your concerns about the proposed cuts to the education budget. I remain hopeful, however, that the cuts in the initial versions of the budget are just that: a starting point rather than the final compromise.

Often I am asked how education is funded. Currently, the state spends approximately 57 percent of the entire budget on public education and higher education. Of that, over 70 percent is dedicated strictly to the public education system, which totaled approximately $53.7 billion last year. However, the student population has continued to grow at approximately 80,000 students per year rendering our funding system vulnerable.


As a strong advocate of local control, I believe we must work with our school boards to evaluate the necessity of all district expenditures with the current economic climate in mind. I am committed to finding efficiencies and discussing innovative, common sense ideas with parents, educators and my legislative colleagues.

Missing from the piece are any mention of the Rainy Day Fund, whether she supports the removal of the 22:1 class size limit, the possible elimination of pre-K funding, the vast number of jobs that local school districts may be forced to cut, the new STAAR tests and whether or not Texas should proceed with them if funding for their required materials is deferred, or any indication of what she might support or oppose. But she does point out that the Lottery provides only a tiny piece of education funding, which is a frequently misunderstood point, so kudos to her for that. Hope you all feel as informed now as I do.

Don’t plan that Sunday trip to Liquor Mart just yet

The debate over allowing Sunday liquor sales continues on.

A leader of the Texas Package Stores Association told the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Tuesday there’s been no great demand from customers that liquor stores open on Sundays. Plus, opening on Sunday would likely spread the same sales over seven days instead of six, said association president Greg Wonsmos, who’s also president of Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits.

Some independent store owners and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States back the bill by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, saying it’s a matter of customer convenience and could provide extra tax revenue for the state.

Estimates range from $7.4 million to $12 million in increased state revenue per biennium. Former state chief revenue estimator Billy Hamilton said when blue laws preventing Sunday sales of certain items in stores were lifted in 1985, there was also much debate about the effects.

“I can tell you conclusively that is has both added to the convenience of shoppers and it has produced money for the state of Texas,” Hamilton said, adding that a ban on Sunday liquor store sales is one of the last remnants of the Texas blue laws.

Ellis’ bill is SB595; it did not get a vote in committee. Apparently, Comptroller Combs disagrees with Hamilton – she has announced that allowing Sunday liquor sales would not raise “no significant revenue”. I don’t know that I agree with that, but I also don’t think it really matters. I’ll say again, I see no reason to not allow liquor sales on Sunday. Whether it gets through the Lege, that’s a different story.