Sunday, May 01, 2005

Yet another reason...

...Democrats need to take back Texas.

Every group that gave generously to the Republicans that redistricted themselves into a safe majority has received something in return. Every group, that is, except for two: gambling and pro-voucher groups.

About the latter, the Texas Observer ran an excellent piece recently (linked via Susan O'hanian). The follow the money story by Observer intern Laurie Reinlie is shocking, but hardly surprising.

Last month, a huge rally was held in support of vouchers. Hundreds of Hispanic parents came out, rallied, and testified in front of the House Public Ed Committee under the auspices of Hispanic Council for Reform and Education (HCREO). Most of the parents were part of the privately-funded voucher program called the CEO program.

From the article:

The largest contributor to the CEO program also happens to be the second largest campaign contributor in Texas, Dr. James Leininger. According to [CEO director Jessica] Sanchez, Leininger founded CEO and made a 10-year commitment to the organization. To date he has poured between $30 million and $50 million into the scholarship program. In the 2002 and 2004 election cycles, he gave a total of almost $2 million to Texas Republicans, according to figures from the Austin-based campaign watchdog Texans for Public Justice.

H-CREO receives much of its funding from right-wing pro-voucher groups such as the Walton Family Foundation of Wal-Mart fame and Leininger’s own pro-voucher political action committee, Children First America... In October, H-CREO received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Department of Education to inform the public about their options under the No Child Left Behind Act.

While refusing to reveal the origin of the money for the rally, organizers did insist that federal education dollars were not used. Chuck McDonald, serving as a spokesperson for the group’s efforts in Austin, says “they spent enough to attract enough people to get the press to come out” and that it probably fell somewhere in the couple of thousands of dollars. (McDonald was most recently in the media testifying in the Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) civil trial about his work creating more than four million mailers distributed to voters by the Texas Association of Business (TAB). Bill Cerverha, the defendant in the civil trial, was also at the rally in support.)

So there it is. This is a pattern with Republicans: Tap into a genuine sentiment (religion, frustration with public schools, patriotism, etc.) and exploit it like crazy for partisan political gain. And of course, turn people away from the real problems (chronic underfunding of property-poor neighborhood schools) and get 'em working on a shortsighted, altogether irrelevant solution (vouchers). Oh, and then fertilize it with federal funds. Yes, that would be taxpayer dollars.

This is the most cynical politics imaginable-- it turns the stomach. With groups like Leininger's, with people like McDonald and Cerverha involved, with politicians like Tom Craddick and Rick Perry in their pockets, with a law like NCLB to undermine schools, public education is truly at the brink.


Anonymous Dave Shearon said...

Hmmm... "property-poor neighborhood schools." So, do you believe that it is only schools without adequate resources that are failing to challenge kids and that this failing could be remedied with more money? If so, why aren't the Washington, DC, schools better?

5:16 AM  

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