against the walls. If Mark White needed a reminder of what the November election was about, it was assembled in that room. COPS Area Vice President Enrique Velasco stepped to a microphone and introduced representatives from the community organizations joining COPS in support of the education package. As he called out the name of each organization, the audience applauded and the representatives took seats in the front rows reserved for them. Velasco then began to do a little cheerleading. “What do all those red, white, and blue buttons say?” “COPS. “Let the legislators hear you.” “COPS!” “Do we want a $20 a year increase in funding?” “No!” “What do we want? “Equality!” There was a precision and an order about all this that frightens the anarchist heart. But there was also power here. You could feel it hovering as Mark White and Gib Lewis appeared at the door White smiling, Lewis expressionless. The advance man stepped to the microphone to tell the crowd to welcome its leaders. Sonia Hernandez then walked toward the table at the front of the room, followed by COPS Vice President Helen Ayala, Sister Lynn Stewart, and Tino Gonzalez, COPS Executive Treasurer. The crowd stood and broke into. applause. Then Mark White, Bill Hobby, Gib Lewis, and State Representative Frank Tejeda entered the room and walked to the table on the left. White waved to the crowd. He may have been the only person in the room confused about which “leaders” were being applauded. The crowd sat down as Sonia Hernandez stood at the podium. Hernandez became the COPS president at the organization’s ninth annual convention on November 7, the convention at which Mark White appeared, fulfilling a campaign promise, and where he pledged himself to the COPS education agenda and to the initiation of this meeting to work out a legislative package. Hernandez had served as COPS executive secretary for two years and as chair of the group’s education committee and committee on the South Texas Nuclear Project. She is a bilingual education consultant for the Edgewood School District, the district from which Demetrio Rodriguez filed suit in 1968 after seeing the educational inequities suffered by his children and his neighbors’ children. In a sense, Hernandez and White came into office together, and White, former nemesis of bilingual education, gave the impression that he was trying to build a feeling of personal affinity between them. Round One As Sonia Hernandez adjusted the microphone, power was floating over the heads of everyone in the room, uncertain where to light, wary of the wrong move, testing each side for the possibilities for attachment and support. The audience sat motionless, flexing its will, awaiting the proceedings. Hernandez opened the meeting, speaking in slow, measured tones. A slightly nervous edge to her -voice was gradually replaced as she spoke by a tone of controlled anger. She began by describing COPS members as belonging to families “whose children are subjected to the most degrading and inadequate public education system in the state of Texas.” She moved on to the COPS education proposal: “Equalization aid is the cornerstone. It will do no good to simply raise teachers’ salaries as a sole panacea to the state’s education ills. Such a move will only perpetuate the inequities between a wealthy school district and a poor school district. What is needed is teacher pay raises coupled with a substantial increase in equalization aid. This is not an either/or proposal. We have learned that the Legislative Budget Board is recommending an increase of $20 per pupil for the next biennium. This means for us that our children still won’t have textbooks, that our children still won’t have workbooks, and that the best teachers will still continue to be siphoned away by the districts that can offer more money. The COPS organization is here in strength with its allied organizations and we say to you that enough is enough. . . . “We understand that some people are saying that it’s going to take a tax bill, a revenue bill to pay for any changes in educational funding. A tax bill put onto education will be making education a scapegoat . . . If somebody wants a tax bill, then ask the transportation lobby to handle it. Don’t put it on education. We have over the months heard many commitments to education, and we are here today to reaffirm our commitment that this fight for equal education is one that we will follow through to the end. Finally, if something does not happen in this legislative session, then we certainly will assure the state that the weight of our voting power will be felt in 1984.” Hernandez then introduced the representatives of the five organizations allied with COPS, who each gave a brief statement of support. By this time it was clear that she controlled the meeting, that there was to be no deference to the authority of a governor-elect, a lieutenant governor, or a probable house speaker. This was transmitted to the audience, which politely interrupted Mark White, when he later spoke, to ask him to speak louder. All were equals. Elected officials had to hear out their guests and constituents before speaking. Estela Padilla, the representative from EPISO, spoke last, saying: “I am the proud mother of an ,intelligent and creative five-year-old boy who has been playing the piano since he was two-anda-half years old.” She was interrupted by applause, then continued: “As a parent I am concerned about how intelligent and how creative he will be at age eighteen. My feeling is that my son will not realize his full potential. Why? Because our part of the state, Region 19, is the poorest in Texas . . . When every cent is drained from the state, from the local taxpayer and from federal money. when we have squeezed dry every money resource we can find, we still spend only $1,576.59 per child while our neighbor district spends $2,511.90 per child. The state average is $2,175.65. When we have this kind of disparity in the educational system, you know that our school district, the Socorro Independent School District, will have to make decisions that will hinder and hurt the growth and development of my son. . . Sonia Hernandez then turned to Mark White, who throughout the meeting, looked as if he were watching the proceedings from the inside of a fishbowl. will ask now for brief opening remarks. beginning now with Governor Mark White, who committed himself at the COPS convention of 5,000 delegates on November 7 that, first of all, this meeting would be pulled together. We appreciate that. You did follow through, sir. Now I ask for your opening remarks. White followed with a rambling soliloquy that began with shared concerns . . . if something does not happen in this legislative session, . . . the weight of our voting power will be felt in 1984.” 12 JANUARY 14, 1983
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