This article doesn't mention two key questions that were asked and superficially engaged by the panel. The first was an explicit question about whether the proposed cuts to education are race-related and would they be the same if the state's majority of students were Anglo. Responses across the panel were no. I give a bit of credit to Veronica Gonzalez who at least did mention that the growing retired demographic that do not have school-aged children do indeed look different than the majority of students that their local taxes help to provide education for. Villarreal resorted to the answer that there's a lack of personal connection and experience. Specifically, there are a number of policymakers that do not have children at all or if they do, those children are not in public schools. For Villarreal he stated that it is personal.
A second question, that also ended the Q&A discussion, asked what can be done to prevent people who cannot afford to raise children to stop having children. This person followed up by a comment that stated "I don't want to pay for other people's children" — no further commentary is needed for this one.
Question two clearly legitimates the concern that brought about question one. We can act like it doesn't exist and let the discrimination grow or we can stand up and use open forums to be real and address issues that are really happening in our state and nation.
by Thanh Tan | Texas Tribune
March 1, 2011
Protecting education and recognizing that the rapidly growing Hispanic population will gain a major political voice in Texas were themes that emerged Monday afternoon at The Texas Tribune’s "New Day Rising" forum at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
During a lunch keynote session, Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith spoke with four Hispanic state representatives: Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg; Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen; and Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio. The four agreed that public education remains a key investment for the state. They disagreed, though, on where cuts should be made, especially as the state faces a shortfall between $15 billion and $27 billion.
“When [education is] 60 percent of your budget, you have to look there. But you have to be careful to leave an infrastructure,” said Larry Gonzales, whose wife is a special education administrator.
Villarreal said that so far, the GOP approach cuts too deeply in education and is too harsh on immigrants.
“This may be the most harmful session to Hispanics,” he said, referring to bills that would target immigrants, eliminate some pre-kindergarten programs and zero-out funding for college grants.
Villarreal also took aim at the governor.
“Rick Perry and the Republicans in control must admit that we have a permanent revenue shortfall. We have a hole in our budget that is persisting even if we balance this budget,” he said. “It’s a state responsibility to cover education — the basics — or else it gets sued.”
Peña, who recently switched to the Republican Party, said the GOP's landslide wins across the state in November showed that Texans want the government to live within its means and not raise taxes. He found himself on the defensive, as the audience of about 300 disagreed loudly.
Still, Peña and Gonzales both pledged not to increase taxes.
The Democrats advocated for a balanced approach.
“We need to not take anything off the table, like the Rainy Day Fund and raising revenue,” said Veronica Gonzales.
When it comes to the Rainy Day Fund, the lawmakers said it should be tapped — but couldn’t agree to what extent.
“If it’s not raining right now, I don’t know what weather map they’re looking at,” Villarreal told the audience after confirming he supports drying out the funds if necessary.
The Republicans expressed misgivings about draining the savings account.
A post-lunch session moderated by the Tribune's managing editor, Ross Ramsey, yielded four perspectives on the state of public policy in Texas.
Eva DeLuna Castro of the Center for Public Policy Priorities warned that local governments will likely have to pay for more services the public expects from government, especially as the state cuts back. She advocated for sales taxes on services and instituting income taxes and lower property taxes.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Talmadge Heflin said the state must recognize that Medicaid is unsustainable and that the state’s pension system — though considered healthy now — should learn from other states that are facing similar struggles.
The event ended with an appearance by Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration.
Now the CEO of a real estate management firm, Cisneros said his native city has set the tone for inclusiveness and job creation by opening itself to a diversity of sectors, from the military and manufacturing to health care and biosciences.
But Cisneros echoed the theme expressed by fellow Democrats — that Texas is cutting education and social services at an alarming rate.
“The question is whether we’re building the kind of human capital base that can support a future economy,” he said.