Too Many Good Choices

It seems to me that citizens who sincerely care about public education in Texas have too many good choices for governor this year.  Normally, having more than one good option is a good thing, except during elections.  This is because independents and “other party” candidates generally turn out to be spoilers in the process, except as in rare cases like the 1998 Minnesota elections when the outspoken Reform Party candidate, Jesse Ventura, was elected governor there. That’s why I believe in a two-party system.  Unfortunately, the two major parties in the United States tend to polarize over “hot-button” issues like gun-control, taxes, funding for social programs, and abortion.  But that’s a subject for another post.

As a teacher and a member of the ATPE (Association of Texas Professional Educators), I recently read the Fall 2006 ATPE News article, “Educators Hold the Trump Card on Election Day.”  The four candidates for governor responded in this article to association questions on education.  It was a great article, and if you haven’t read it, I do highly recommend it.  But I think it was inappropriately titled. Why?  Well, I’ll try to explain.

The three challengers all responded personally while Governor Perry chose to have a campaign staff member respond, which was most unfortunate, I think.  This alone said something to me, but it probably went over the heads’ of most readers.  I took it to mean that Mr. Perry has effectively written off educators’ votes to his opponents.  He knows he is not likely to carry the teachers’ voting block in Texas.  But he also knows that he probably doesn’t need to.  This block will be pretty much divided between his three opponents, all three of whom said things that spoke to fixing problems consistent with educators’ recommendations and sympathies.  The Governor’s spokes- person responded defensively, taking credit for legislative measures like Senate Bill 1691, which was intended to shore-up unfunded liabilities in the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) fund with punitive changes like the rule of 80 and increasing the minimum retirement age.  This bill is expected to decrease the current $13 billion dollar liability, but only to the tune of about $1.5 billion.  However, Mr. Perry, unlike the other three, does have a track record of actually doing something.  The others could only offer campaign promises.  All three challengers spoke against what they consider to be an over-emphasis on “rewards-based” TAKS testing.  The Governor’s spokesperson strongly defended TAKS, as currently employed, which punishes “under-performing” schools regardless of the reasons behind students’ poor performance.  But public opinion has been shown to be pretty much split on the value of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the federal mandate responsible for TAKS.  So, it seems obvious to me that, whether you agree or not with Governor Perry’s assessment of where the problems lie with Texas education and what to do about them, educators do not, in fact, hold the trump card.  Hold on now… hear me out.

In a state like Texas, a state that is solidly in the “red” column nationally, many folks are going to cast votes based on issues other than education, issues like taxes, law enforcement and immigration.  And many teachers in Texas are die-hard Republicans, don’t forget.  They’ll vote for Mr. Perry regardless of how he stands on education issues.  Party loyalty in Texas is a tradition, don’t you know?  Some who are not firmly committed to one of the two major parties (folks who are, for the most part, not Texas-born and Texas-bread), will vote for whomever they like.  These are the beauty-contest voters, voters whose support all of the candidates are trying to win over.  Then there will be some who may have been impressed with what “Grandma” Strayhorn or “Kinky” Friedman have had to say since the primaries earlier this year.  But, since they voted in either of the two primaries, they cannot, by state law, sign petitions or campaign for independents, the candidates who have been attracting most of the media attention to the demise of Mr. Bell’s campaign.  So, my prediction, for what it’s worth is this:  25 percent (perhaps less) for Bell, 15 percent (maybe more) for Grandma, 20 percent (more or less) for Kinky, and 40 percent for Perry.  Congratulations, Mr. Perry.

Oh m’gosh! Y’all don’t suppose that one or both of the inde- pendent candidates this year are actually running campaigns at the behest of the Republican Party, do ya?  Nah…  But just suppose they were.  Wouldn’t that just be a perfectly brilliant political strategy, one that’s right up there with the redistricting done by Republicans here in Texas back in 2003?

So, my conclusion is this:  if Texas educators really want to see a change in the direction public education is headed, they will need to get together and collectively encourage one or both of the independents to step aside, effectively throwing their support to the remaining contender, democrat Chris Bell.  Good as their ideas may seem to be, as I see it, the chances of either winning are extremely remote anyway, despite the growing tide of support for political independents in this state.  But of course, by charter, none of our professional organizations in Texas can suggest that we do this.  So, maybe our best bet is a letter-writing campaign that says, “Teachers, don’t waste your vote on a candidate that is not a true contender this year, no matter how much they may impress you by what they say.  Check the polls before going to your polling place.”

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Published in: on September 10, 2006 at 3:02 pm  Comments (7)  

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  1. Kinky has ideologically positioned himself on the far right to get the votes of disaffected radical Republicans.

    As reported by the Quorum Report, Kinky has pledged on Dan Patrick’s right-wing talk radio program that he would not veto Patrick’s “trigger bill” to make abortion illegal in Texas immediately upon any reversal of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court.

    This puts Kinky to the right of Perry and Strayhorn, who both have refused to commit to signing Patrick’s extremist bill.

    Chris Bell is the only candidate who would veto Patrick’s extremist bill:

    “I would veto that,” Bell told The Associated Press on Friday. “I think the majority of Texans are still pro-choice. I don’t think they’re pro-abortion, but they understand that there are instances where that very painful choice is going to have to be made.”… Abortion rights advocates should help “find ways to make it as rare as possible,” Bell said. “But to make it illegal, that’s not the road to go down.”

    Kinky also positioned himself well to pick up far right-wing votes when he “stirred up controversy Wednesday when he referred to hurricane evacuees living in Houston as ‘crackheads and thugs’ who should be escorted out of Texas.”

    When asked about these comments, Kinky helpfuly explained that “Racism was here before I came around,” he said. “I am just trying to bring up these issues within the (expletive) society….As it happens, the crackheads and thugs who remain in Houston after Katrina happen to be black; that’s fact.”

    A few days earlier, Kinky positioned himself to capture right-wing votes on the issue of immigration reform:

    He said he supports groups such as the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps because they draw attention to problems on the border.

    Asked about his own strategy for securing the border, Friedman said, “I’m not sure. I don’t have a plan.”

    He said he would appoint people who care about the state to develop a plan based on his motto: “Remember the Alamo.”

    Border safety has deteriorated, Friedman said, because politicians are too afraid to offend Hispanics and get tough on the Mexican government.

    On issues ranging from a woman’s sovereignty over her own womb to race to immigration reform, Kinky has flip flopped himself into positions far to the right of all other candidates, including our shamelessly right-wing failed governor.

  2. Hey Kent, good to know that we have at least one thinker out there. I wonder if the voters are really listening to what the candidates are saying OR rather what is not being said. I must say that I am a transplant and one who has never followed the party line. I am still wondering why so much time and energy is focused on the TAKS test instead of the focus being on teaching our students to compete in a global world. I feel there is something amiss here and I am not quite sure what it is.

    Parents should take the lead in preparing their children for school, how to compete and to be an asset to their community wherever that might be. This would give the teachers a leg up on preparing our students for a brighter tomorrow. We as citizens should demand that we pay our teachers a decent salary. When we raise the standard of pay for our teachers, we will get only the brightest and best which is what our children deserve. With a program like “no child left behind”, I am afraid we are all left behind. Since I must pay taxes, I want the best “bang for my buck.”

    Oh well, Kent, just my two cents. Keep writing—I enjoy reading your comments.

  3. The only candidate for teachers to unite behind is Carol Keeton Strayhorn–she is a former teacher and school board member, and she has always has education and our children as her top priority. This will be a chance to vote Texan and education with Strayhorn–who has the most common-sense in her proposals. Strayhorn a teacher for Governor.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Dallas Teacher. I like everything Carol Keeton Strayhorn, AKA Grandma, says about education too. I like her lots and would give her my total support if, 1: I could legally do so in Texas (I voted in the Democratic primary), and; 2: I thought that it made sense to do so. But, like I said in my post, I don’t think she has a “snowballs chance” in Texas of winning over the incumbant with the counter-Perry votes split as they are in the poles right now, basically three ways. I think, in her heart of hearts, she knows this too. As long as she and Kinky stay in the running, the odds are on Perry.

  5. You can give Strayhorn your support–it does not matter if you voted in a primary. She has the broad backing and support to win this race. From Dallas Democratic County Commissioner John Wiley Price to Republican County Commissioner Ken Mayfield. Even Sen. Eddi Lucio has endorsed Carol Strayhorn–she cares deeply about education and has a good Texas Next Step proposal to help all high school graduates. Maybe Bell and Kinky should unite behind Strayhorn.

  6. For teachers you folks are sure ignorant. In the general election you can vote for whomever you wish, what you did in the primary has no effect on what you do in the general.

    As for Carol Keeton etc. She is just another politician. I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her.

    Obviously “Stop Kinky” has a point of view and an axe to grind. He/she has made several mistatements about Kinky’s positions. Go to Kinky.com to get the correct story.

    As a general comment, it seems to me that no one in the Governor’s Office or the State Legislature seems to know very much about the realities of teaching in Texas classrooms today (the same could also be said of the President and his administration)

  7. I haven’t announced who I’ll support in November, mainly because of my job. But I think it will be interesting none the less.
    Most are saying you’ll need 35-40% of the vote to win the election and Perry is the only candidate to remain above 35% in the polls.
    The teacher’s unions appear to be behind “Independent Grandma for Texas” but I don’t know that the teachers in the classroom are. I think many are still wanting more reaction/information on the candidates viewpoints of the TAKS test (at least those I’ve talked to).
    But I tend to agree with your analysis.


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