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December 20th, 2012:

Not just vouchers, corporate-sponsored vouchers

You can’t make this stuff up.

Speaking in a Catholic school classroom in Austin, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick gave the first details of what they promised would be a wide-ranging set of proposals for public education policy during the upcoming legislative session.

Patrick, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would carry legislation that would increase the options for public school students through lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, fostering open enrollment within and across school districts, and creating a private school scholarship fund through offering a state business tax savings credit to corporations. When asked for further information about how such a scholarship program would operate, Patrick said the plan was still in its formative stages, and earlier, Dewhurst indicated that it may begin through a smaller-scale pilot program.

Because we just don’t offer enough tax breaks for businesses in this state. When I read about that ludicrous proposal to let teachers be voluntary cops, I thought it was the pinnacle of Republican philosophy in this state. I may have to reconsider that now.

Though the set of reforms the two men described at the news conference did not contain a plan for what are often called private school vouchers, which allow parents to use public funding to send their children to private schools, Patrick said afterward that the legislation was still evolving. He indicated that it could include a measure that would be along the lines of “what some people might call vouchers.”

Take your time, Danno. After all the thought that must have gone into this proposal, I’m sure you need to catch your breath. To his credit, Speaker Joe Straus is skeptical of this plan, but I wouldn’t count anything out. The Texas Freedom Network has more.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story, and here’s a press release from the Coalition for Public Schools, which as you might imagine is critical of the proposal.

Responding the only way they know how

That’s our Legislature.

In response to last week’s Connecticut school shooting, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, says he will file legislation to allow public school teachers to carry concealed weapons while on campus.

The bill, which Villalba is calling the Protection of Texas Children Act, would permit Texas schools to appoint a member of their faculty as a “school marshal.” The marshal, with training and certification, would be able to “use lethal force upon the occurrence of an attack in the classroom or elsewhere on campus,” according to a press release from Villalba, a newly elected state representative.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement personnel cannot be everywhere at all times,” Villalba said in a statement. “We need to talk very frankly about how we can protect our children if the unthinkable should occur.”

So, to recap:

Will the state of Texas do anything to increase access to mental health services? Well, we’re not going to expand Medicaid, which will put a large burden on counties because of the loss of funding for uncompensated care at public hospitals, and counties are the largest providers of mental health services, so that would be a “no”.

Will the state of Texas do anything to restrict access to the kind of weaponry whose only use is to hunt humans? Please. Don’t you know that the right to high-capacity magazines is protected by the Constitution?

And we haven’t even gotten to the best part:

Villalba’s proposal would create a training system for potential concealed-weapon holding employees of public schools, which would be paid for either by school districts or the employees themselves. Under his plan, there would be one armed employee for every 400 students, marshals who would be unidentifiable except to the school principal, law enforcement and school district administrators. The employees would purchase and maintain their own weapons.

So these “school marshals”, who will presumably be expected to put themselves in the line of fire in the event there ever is an armed intrusion of a school, will be volunteers using their own equipment, and they may have to pay for their own training, because the state of Texas won’t be providing any funding for it. How will principals ever be able to choose from the flood of applicants they’ll surely get for this plum assignment? I’m hard pressed to think of a “solution” to a problem that more thoroughly embodies the current philosophy of the Republican Party than this. Bravo, Rep. Villalba.

To be fair, Land Commissioner/Lite Guv candidate Jerry Patterson has a sensible suggestion for closing the gun show loophole, which ought to help keep a few guns away from bad guys. Obviously, no single solution will cover all contingencies, and ultimately there’s only so much that can be done to deter a determined criminal. But there are simple and obvious things we can and should do to try and prevent gun-related tragedies, and if there’s ever a time to be seeking those answers, it’s now. Kudos to Patterson for taking it seriously. I just hope he has some company.

UPDATE: The following press release just hit my inbox:

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten react to proposals by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, and William Bennett to arm teachers as a way to prevent school violence.

“Our duty to every child is to provide safe and secure public schools. That is the vow we take as educators. It is both astounding and disturbing that following this tragedy, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, Bill Bennett, and other politicians and pundits have taken to the airwaves to call for arming our teachers. As the rest of the country debates how to keep guns out of schools, some are actually proposing bringing more guns in, turning our educators into objects of fear and increasing the danger in our schools.

“Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.

“But this is not just about guns. Long-term and sustainable school safety also requires a commitment to preventive measures. We must continue to do more to prevent bullying in our schools. And we must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists. States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. It is well past time to reverse this trend and ensure that these services are available and accessible to those who need our support.

“Greater access to mental health services, bullying prevention, and meaningful action on gun control—this is where we need to focus our efforts, not on staggeringly misguided ideas about filling our schools with firearms. Lawmakers at every level of government should dismiss this dangerous idea and instead focus on measures that will create the safe and supportive learning environments our children deserve.”

I completely agree.

Transition, schmansition

Don Sumners, ladies and gentlemen.

We won’t miss you, Don

“There is no transition,” said lame-duck Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners.

The occasionally cantankerous 73-year-old anti-tax taxman said he and his two predecessors came in cold, and [Tax Assessor-elect Mike] Sullivan will have to do the same.

“Frankly, I guess, it’s a little bit of bitterness on my part that he chose to run against me when really there wasn’t anything that I had done that would justify an opponent from my own party, and that he chose to, in effect, buy his way in with the slate votes,” Sumners said, referring to endorsements Sullivan received after contributing to prominent conservatives’ groups or advertising in their newsletters. “I just don’t feel like I owe him anything. He’s not qualified, he shouldn’t have run, so he’s just going to have to work it out when he gets here.

“I just decided to be uncooperative, I guess,” Sumners continued. “I was, quote, pissed.”

Sumners is the embodiment of the philosophy that says just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to act like a grownup. I don’t need to note Sumners’ many, many screwups as Tax Assessor to point out how ridiculous he sounds here, do I? I don’t know how much actual transition is needed for a job like this, but it shouldn’t matter. We expect elected officials to not act like spoiled children, even after losing an election. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Don.

Texas blog roundup for the week of December 17

The Texas Progressive Alliance sends its deepest condolences to the people of Newtown as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff says that the voters have done a pretty good job of imposing term limits on the Legislature.

BossKitty at TruthHugger asks when is enough enough? What is it with sick white boys?

Governor “Fetal Pain” finally called the special election in SD-6, and some candidates jumped in and some are staying out. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the latest.

It’s unlikely that the candidate of the”middle of the road” business/corporate interests for Texas House Spekaer, aka Joe Straus, will lose. But Texas Democrats should have some fun with the race for Speaker anyway, In race for Speaker Democrats should stir the pot, says WCNews at Eye on Williamson.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme was surprised to find out that RedState hates Texans for Lawsuit Reform, too.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the real St. Nicholas. He might have had a hard time in Texas as he was against the death penalty.