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PORTSIDELABOR  June 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDELABOR June 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Texas Cuts School Funding by $4 Billion

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 6 Jun 2011 08:21:32 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (78 lines)

 

Texas Cuts School Funding  by $4 Billion

 
Activists applaud Davis' stand on education
Posted Saturday, Jun. 04, 2011

By Dave Montgomery

AUSTIN -- Less than a week after unleashing a 79-minute filibuster in the Texas Senate, Wendy Davis was back in the spotlight at the state Capitol on Saturday.

The freshman Democratic senator from Fort Worth stood in the Capitol rotunda, encircled by more than 200 parents and teachers, many of them holding placards denouncing state education cuts. One woman held a sign proclaiming: "Sen. Davis, you are my hero. Thank You."

The demonstration at least partly fulfilled what Davis predicted shortly after her filibuster, which stopped a package of $4 billion in education cuts and forced an irritated Gov. Rick Perry to call an immediate special session.

As schools close for the summer, and with the special session just beginning, parents and teachers would besiege lawmakers in Austin in an angry backlash against the education reductions she had tried to stop during the regular session, Davis had said.

Although Saturday's numbers were nowhere near the thousands of protesters who rallied against school cuts earlier in the spring, organizers said the demonstration was only the beginning of a public outpouring that will stretch into the next legislative elections in November.

"This fight is not over yet," declared Louis Malfaro of Austin, secretary-treasurer of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Davis has encountered sniping from Perry and other Republican leaders for waging the Sunday night filibuster. But she was clearly a crowd favorite at Saturday's demonstration.

"She actually restored my faith in politicians," Kimberly Burkett of Fort Worth said. "I didn't believe there was anybody left who believed in education."

Educators and parents, many with children in tow, came from as far away as Lubbock and Abilene, gathering on the ground floor of the Capitol.

Neither the House nor Senate was in session, but the group marched through a long corridor to briefly protest outside a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. "We're watching; we vote," they chanted along the way.

Christi Upton of Keller, accompanied by her 9-year-old son, Alex, displayed a sign declaring, "Education is Cheaper than Rehabilitation."

"I feel really passionate about this," she said. "State funding is broken and it needs to be fixed."

Burkett participated in the demonstration with her 4-year-old son, Jackson. "I wanted them to look at him," she said. "They're stealing money from him and his future classmates."

Davis, drawing boisterous cheers and whistles, reminded the audience that Democrats had sought unsuccessfully to lift corporate exemptions and make bigger withdrawals from the state's rainy-day fund to help offset the education cuts. She also called on parents and educators to reach out relentlessly to lawmakers to let them know about the impact of education cuts on local school districts.

"You're going to hold them accountable," she said. "Your voices on this issue remind us of what our job is. ... You all are the heroes."

The reaction that greeted Davis on Saturday differed sharply with the response from Perry and other Republican leaders after the filibuster brought down a must-pass revenue measure containing the school package.

"A lot of this work could have been finalized on Monday, yet a member of the Senate decided that they wanted to make a statement," Perry said last week. "We're back here spending extra dollars and taking people's time when we could have finished that work on Monday."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has defended the budget, also cited "some in the Legislature that wanted to run the clock out, just stall and run the clock out."

Other critics have suggested that Davis' strategy may have backfired by only temporarily stopping the education cuts and by giving Perry another opportunity to pass hot-button issues such as an immigration bill. The GOP-dominated Legislature has put a revived revenue-school aid package on the fast track in the special session; it passed the Senate on Friday and is likely to clear the House soon.

But Davis noted that Perry was already signaling that he planned a special session later in the summer to deal with other issues. Her filibuster, she said, had the effect of giving lawmakers and the public another opportunity to weigh in on school funding.

"We were going to be back here one way or the other, and I'm proud that one of the reasons we're back here is to talk about education funding," she said. "I can assure you that, absent the filibuster, whatever was going to be on the [special session] call for the summer wasn't going to be about education funding."

Davis told the Star-Telegram that she has received "literally thousands" of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls thanking her for the filibuster and for underscoring the problems facing school districts

Saturday's demonstration was organized by Save Texas Schools, which staged the massive rally outside the Capitol in the spring and sponsored a smaller demonstration of several hundred during the final days of the Legislature's regular session. The Texas American Federation of Teachers is planning a rally Monday along with a telephonic town hall featuring Davis and Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

Rally organizers and protesters are sounding an increasingly loud message that conservative lawmakers who supported the cuts may face voter retaliation in the November elections.

"The vast majority of Texans don't want to see schools defunded," said Malfaro, of the teachers federation. Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief

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