Page 13


EDITORIAL Suffer the Little Legislators As we write this, the second special session on school finance of the 79th Legislature is all but over. Like petulant and frightened children, the Lite Gov and the Speaker would prefer to run out the clock, rather than have one or the other blamed for their collective failure. That’s not to say the blame game isn’t in full swing. The governor blames the Legislature. After all, he has to cover his own failures and get reelected. The Senate blames the House. The Speaker faults the school superintendents, who no doubt wish that they had the power he ascribes to them. In reality, the sessionas far as reforming school finance is concernedwas over before it began. Only the outsized egos and ambitions of Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst prevented everybody from accepting the truth at the outset. This is the fifth time that this particular band of Republicans has failed to pass a school finance plan since they took control in 2003. Why can’t these folks get it together? The answer in one word priorities. Just look at what they did accomplish during the special. Three big bills that had been hanging around since the end of the regular session made it to the governor’s desk in this second special session; none of them were about the kids. Both chambers passed a bill that would increase judges’ salaries by 23 percent. A state district judge in Texas presently earns $101,700. The Lege just upped that to $125,000. It’s hard to argue that judges who could earn much more in the private sector shouldn’t be better compensated. But in raising the salaries of state judges, legislators also increased their own pensions by an identical percentage. Legislators gave themselves this nice little bump when Texas teachers are among the lowest compensated in the nation. The Lege also passed a bill outlawing local governments from grabbing private property for commercial development. Eminent domain became the right wing’s bugbear after a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s an easy call for legislators since they don’t have to deal directly with the economic development needs of small communities. Exempted, though, was a bigmoney deal to construct a new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Finally, and perhaps most revealing, was the telecommunications bill. If there is one god before whom this Republican majority bows down, it’s campaign contributions. Too bad the school children of Texasor your average consumer for that matterdon’t have a political action committee. \(Irate parents have recently banded together in a political action committee called Texas Parents PAC to push for change in an open acknowledgment of this companies spent $1,588,869 in campaign contributions in Texas, according to Texans for Public Justice. By the end of the regular session, SBC had an army of 123 lobbyistsreporting up to $6.8 million in feespushing telecom deregulation at the Lege. Together, SBC and Verizon lobbyists outnumbered the 150-member Texas House. All this money was well spent. The bill opened up the video business to telephone companies while locking cable companies into existing local franchise deals with cities. Basic phone service was also deregulated, so expect your bill to go up. No longer will telecom providers be forced to service less profitable poor parts of town for cable or the Internet. The telecom bill is expected to earn billions for SBC and Verizon. And what about the school kids of Texas? Well, they’ll have to wait for another special session, perhaps this fall or next spring. It seems to us the folks in suits at the Capitol are actually the children in need of educating. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 97, NO. 16 I A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Lara George Art Director/Webmaster Matt Omohundro Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editors Roxanne Bogucka, Laurie Baker Staff Writer Forrest Wilder Editorial Interns Naomi King, Star Silva, Elizabeth L. Taylor Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter, Penny Van Horn Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid righted 2005, is published biweekly except during January and August when there is a 4 week break between non-profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books & the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Molly lvins, Susan Hays, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Ocafias, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Sharron Rush, Ronnie In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt,1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ AUGUST 26, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3