Friday, June 17, 2005

TX MONTHLY—Worst Legislators: Kent Grusendorf

Here is the report by Texas Monthly on best and worst legislators of 2005. The following is on Grusendorf, chairman of Committee on Public Education. It should become clear with this succinct piece why so little was achieved this session in the area of school finance, while raising the question whether such can be obtained when the very interests of public schools, their teachers, and administrators and the communities that they serve are disregarded.

Kent Grusendorf
R Arlington

THE WRONG MAN at the right time. Charged with writing a new school finance bill, Grusendorf was the John Bolton of the Texas Legislature—a man at war with the institution (public schools) and the people (educators) he was supposed to work with. No lawmaker had it in his power to do so much good, nor, thank goodness, accomplished so little.

Grusendorf produced a bill that had no support—zip, zilch—from Texas educators. Indeed, they had no input in crafting it; the bill reflected a report by an ideological think tank in California. Some ideas had merit—greater financial accountability for school districts, for example—but school finance is all about money, and here the bill was full of shams: $3 billion in “new” money for schools, which the bill did not raise; a teacher pay increase, which the bill did not fund; more money for bilingual education, which the bill allowed school districts to use for any purpose; mandates to local districts, which ate up 87 percent of the promised $3 billion. The bill was so bad that it perished in the session’s closing hours.

But its elegy had been pronounced months earlier, when Bob Griggs, a former superintendent turned Republican lawmaker, urged his House colleagues to vote against it. “This bill is just plain old junk food…It provides that sugar rush immediately, but the funding falls apart after a very short period of time. It just has no substance…I find it really ironic that we’re talking about improving nutrition in our schools when we’re willing to feed our school finance system the fiscal equivalent of a candy bar.” Given the way Grusendorf dropped the ball, let’s call it a Butterfinger.

Best and Worst Legislators 2005

The Best
Dianne Delisi
Sen. Robert Duncan
Dan Gattis
Charlie Geren
Fred Hill
Sen. Steve Ogden
Jim Pitts
Mike Villarreal
Sen. John Whitmire
Sen. Judith Zaffirini

The Worst
Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos
Dwayne Bohac
Mary Denny
Al Edwards
Sen. Mario Gallegos
Kent Grusendorf
Sen. Chris Harris
Terry Keel
Phil King
Robert Talton

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