Their are a lot of positive steps the state of Texas could take to improve the lives of its citizens. But Gov. Rick Perry’s not falling for that – he knows better.
“This month, The Houston Chronicle published an opinion piece by the former first lady (Barbara Bush) titled “We Can’t Afford to Cut Education,” in which Mrs. Bush pointed out that students in Texas currently rank 47th in the nation in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores.
“But the Texas State Legislature is looking to cut about $4.8 billion over the next two years from the schools. Budgets are tight everywhere, but Perry, the state’s governor, and his supporters made things much worse by reducing school property taxes by a third in 2006 under the theory that a higher cigarette tax and a new business franchise tax would make up the difference. Which they didn’t.
“In Austin, I’ve got half-a-dozen or more schools on a list to be closed — one of which I presented a federal blue-ribbon award to for excellence,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett. “And several hundred school personnel on the list for possible terminations.”
“So the first choice is what to do. You may not be surprised to hear that Governor Perry has rejected new taxes. He’s also currently refusing $830 million in federal aid to education because the Democratic members of Congress from Texas — ticked off because Perry used $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars for schools to plug other holes in his budget — put in special language requiring that this time Texas actually use the money for the kids.
“Nobody wants to see underperforming, overcrowded schools being deprived of more resources anywhere. But when it happens in Texas, it’s a national crisis. The birth rate there is the highest in the country, and if it continues that way, Texas will be educating about a tenth of the future population. It ranks third in teen pregnancies — always the children most likely to be in need of extra help. And it is No. 1 in repeat teen pregnancies.
“Which brings us to choice two. Besides reducing services to children, Texas is doing as little as possible to help women — especially young women — avoid unwanted pregnancy.
“…the Perry government is a huge fan of the deeply ineffective abstinence-only sex education. Texas gobbles up more federal funds than any other state for the purpose of teaching kids that the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is to avoid sex entirely. (Who knew that the health care reform bill included $250 million for abstinence-only sex ed? Thank you, Senator Orrin Hatch!) But the state refused to accept federal money for more expansive, “evidence-based” programs.
“Abstinence works,” said Governor Perry during a televised interview with Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune.
“But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country,” Smith responded.
“It works,” insisted Perry.
“Can you give me a statistic suggesting it works?” asked Smith.
“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” said Perry, doggedly.
“(Susan) Tortolero, who lectures around the country on effective ways to prevent teenage pregnancy, once testified before a committee in the Texas House that was considering a bill to require that sex education classes only provide information that was medically accurate.
“The bill was controversial. I’ll let you ponder that for a minute.”