Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Aren't you clever ...

Good news today. The Robin Hood scheme set up by the Texas gubernatorial (emphasis on the 'goober' part) administration of George W. Bush was figuratively torn apart by the Texas Supreme Court. Now the Legislature, under Gov. Rick Hairy -cough- I mean Perry, must reinvent the school funding system, much like Madonna had to reinvent her career as her adoptive homeland of Britain thought her a great poser.

Terrific news.

The reason? Our system now consists of a scheme similar to the "rob from the rich to give to the poor" ethic most attributed to Robin Hood and his merry men. In this case, Robin Hood is our Legislature, the riches are the property taxes taken by taxing entities and the redistribution is determined by taking a percentage of the property taxes from a property-rich school districts and then giving it to form more equity with property-poor school districts.

The Texas Supreme Court said that this redistribution of wealth equates to a state property tax, which is outlawed by our constitution. If you didn't know, we also don't have a state income tax, but Texas has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation.

Why the big hoopla? Well, this decision forces the Legislature to find and implement a new system to fund our public schools. Because we are stuck in a rut and have one of the worst statewide public school systems in the nation, this is an opportunity to drastically change a failing system into a leader in its own realm. (It also gives legislators an opportunity to redeem themselves by June, which I must say I'm not too crazy about, especially since this is the same Legislature that couldn't solve our school funding woes but found it in their own hearts to give themselves a raise.)

Something I came across today kind of disturbed me.

I was doing a little bit of background research on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and I discovered that on a certain emmission reduction advisory board there are 22 members, 15 of which are appointed members. Five of the 15 are appointed by the governor, another five by the lieutenant governor and the final five are appointed by the Texas House speaker.

The three men that hold these positions are Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Majority Speaker Tom Craddick. In political ideology, these men rarely differ. All three are set to make Texas one of the most business-friendly states and all three happen to be Republican. So, you tell me if you trust that these three men who appoint about 75 percent of this advisory panel will actually spread the representation over citizens, consumers, environmental activists and stakeholders effected by emmissions.

Just as I suspected, approximately 66 percent of the appointed members of the emmissions reduction advisory panel were representatives of industries that pollute through industrial emmissions, including air conditioning manufacturers, electric power, trucking, fuel, automobile and a few others. Shocking, no? I didn't think so. Only one person, one appointee, represented the environmental community.

So, my last entry went off on the problems with more than 90 percent of Texas being under the realm of private ownership. Today I'm telling it like it is about our state government and the lack of representation on decision-making panels and advisory boards, especially those that deal with our need for clean air to breath, clean water to drink and clean soil to farm. Is there a pattern forming?

I'll leave you with a not-so-random quote plucked from the blogosphere:

"Particularly as yesterday was a bad day and this was just the foetid cherry atop the poo-cake."

Matthew Jones, a la Rant-a-Matt


Josh said...

not to make too big a deal of it, but...

- robin hood was most certainly not declared unconstitutional. the rich-giving-to-the-poor scheme was never part of the lawsuit and was not part of the opinion. in fact, if the lege comes up with a plan that *doesn't* include robin hood or something like it, the court will probably declare *that* unconstitutional.

- robin hood was not at all set up by george w. bush. it was developed out of a series of court cases in the late 80s/early 90s and passed into law by the 1993 legislature. bush wasn't elected until 1994.

- the statewide-property-tax angle derives from the state not putting enough of its own money into the system, forcing local districts to raise property taxes up to the $1.50 cap. it has nothing to do with robin hood; property-poor school districts are just as likely as property-rich ones to be at the cap.

- texas does not have one of the worst statewide public school systems in the nation. our test scores are actually among the best in every racial subgroup. of course test scores aren't the only way to judge a school system, but texas is not among the worst by any means.

- as for your optimism that the lege will come up with a radically better plan than the current one, well, we're all allowed some optimism, i suppose. but i'll eat my hat if there really radical changes (beyond what the lege was considering last session) or large sums of new money reaching schools in the next couple of years.

MattJ said...

I don't know too much about State legislature and the kind of powers they have over there, so I will just fall back on Bill Hicks' description of Bush Senior and apply it neatly to the sins of the Son:

"It's not that I disagree with Bush's foreign policy, his education policy or his economic policies. It's just that I believe he is a child of Satan put on this earth to spread misery, despair and Death"

I do know somehting about Robin Hood though. And the similarities with the sub-simian, barely literate Dunyah are profound. Robin Hood did steal from the rich, but giving to the poor probably wasn't his bag, unless you counted himand his mates of course. Granted, Bush prefers to steal from the poor and give to the rich, but who can blame him? there's more of them and they are so used to getting bent over and abused by successive governments they are more likely to take it. Also Robin Hood, according to much history spent very little time anywhere near Nottingham and probably wasn't a very nice man. Equally, Bush spends very little time doing what is reported to be his job.

In conclusion, the 'Good' reportedly done by both men is either the stolen glory of more worthy men, or made up.

*Puts away wooden stirring spoon*

(Apologies for the ramble, this was done over the morning and as such may be a little disjointed).

*sob!* I feel like I've made it. I've been quoted! *sob!*

Desiree said...

So...color me a Jackass....many apologies for the other night...for a person that can lose the feeling in both legs and not be able to walk...it's amazing how the numbness doesn't offer the courtesy of spreading to my mouth. Oh what vile, unwelcome thought I forced upon you...I can only offer my sincerest apology.

lunaliar said...

Oh please Dez! It's all fine. The stilettos are murder though, eh?

FYI, I just got a reprisal from my boss. That sucks. Apparently, I'm an idiot because I'm not afforded the luxury of attending regular meetings and participating or understanding the banter and why certain decisions are made that effect future developments.

lunaliar said...

Respose a la Josh:

I am well aware that George W. didn't establish the "Robin Hood" wealth-sharing system, but during his administration, Robin Hood was touted as a solution to a problem that the private interest-based state government had had trouble solving, namely it's the education of our inner-city and underprivledged children.

I am also aware that Robin Hood wasn't declared unconstutional, but the EFFECTS of Robin Hood were declared unconstitutional, which were that the statewide property tax cap of $1.50 per $100 valuation had been met by many school districts in Texas. Notice that I said that it, "equates to a state property tax." That's what I meant by it.

Oh, and another thing. Property-rich districts, if they're full of $300,000 houses and multi million-dollar developments, won't there be more tax revenue coming from them rather than a ghettoized inner-city district that contains only low-income housing? That's why they call it a RATE: it is based on a percentage or an incremental scale.

Oh, and Texas isn't doing so well, my chap. You'd like to think that we're close to par, but our TAKS test just recently began measuring those with disabilities and those who cannot speak English. These new measurements are causing several districts that were once "recognized" or "acceptable" to be deemed "unacceptable."

And yes. I'm an optimist and I think that with the constituency as ticked off as they are, a new crop of candidates will reform the mistakes of the incumbents.

lunaliar said...

Matt: No comment on Britain likening Madonna to a poser? I thought you might pounce on that...

Josh said...

funding inequity (which is the problem robin hood tries to solve) is undoubtedly one of the areas texas is most successful. robin hood works. 90% of public schools in texas are funded within about $500 a pupil of each other. our system is annually rated one of the most equitable in the country precisely because of robin hood. if equitable funding between inner city and suburban school districts is your goal, robin hood is a smashing success -- compare it to other states and you'll see *vastly* wider inequities elsewhere. check the new kozol book.

and, whether you like it or not, the robin-hood era has seen increasing test scores for poor black and hispanic students, on the naep as well as the taks. the taks is a fraudulent measure for a number of reasons, but it's just wrong to turn this into blaming bush. i'm no bush apologist, but the test-score gap did shrink in texas in the '90s, verifiably.

the effects of robin hood were not declared unconstitutional, dude. if that were the case, it would just be the rich districts -- the one who lose money via robin hood and have to raise their local tax rate -- that are at the cap. but there are more non-rich districts at the cap than rich districts. it's purely a matter of the state withdrawing money from the system -- it has nothing to do with robin hood.

don't get your graf on $300k houses. look, i think robin hood's a great idea. i'm a big equity guy. i just don't see (a) how it's bush's fault or (b) what the court case has to do with it. some folks (like yr edit page) use the term "robin hood" too loosely to mean everything about the state funding system -- it's not.

MattJ said...

Madonna is just funny. I remember when she first moved here and took to wearing Harris Tweed and affecting the most bizarre accent.
I tend to see her and flip the page or the channel to be honest, pretty much do the same with any celevrity news.

lunaliar said...


I'm not going to question your opinion, because if anyone Googled you, they'd know that you are by far a great expert on this subject. It's good to know that there are people like you wandering the blogosphere to keep amateurs like me in straighter facts.

Kudos, a la Josh.