Joe Moody and his opponent Dee Margo have been battling back and forth for the last three election cycles. Moody took the first round, Margo the second, making this the rubber match. Who should win this round? Joe Moody. Here is why:
There is really only one important issue in Texas politics, and that is education. Education is the glue that binds every single other issue together. Without a strongly educated populace, there is no reason to even think about a positive future for the state. No other issue, none, is as important as educating our children. With that as the backdrop, let’s look at not the candidates so much, but what has happened recently to education in Texas:
The last legislative session saw the largest cuts to education that the state has ever seen. Over $5.4 BILLION dollars for the biennium. The GOP-controlled legislature essentially went along with whatever Governor Perry wanted to do, because he wanted to portray himself as a strong fiscal conservative for his failed presidential run. “Look how much money I cut and balanced the state budget!” he could claim out on the stump. (Never mind that he is required by the state constitution to balance the budget.)
So Perry and his majority lackeys in the legislature decided that hitting education would be a good way to show how conservative they were. Cut education because public education sucks, and really, if we start gutting it, we can pave the way for privatization, charter schools, and vouchers. If we can make education worse than it is, we can say that we have tried all we could to save it, and it looks like the only thing that can save it will be to just hand it over to Pearson. TA DA! At the end of the last legislative session, the GOP had cut funding to education, increased the standards on the mandated tests, created MORE testing days, and chanted in unison with Rick Perry “We must learn to do more with less.” Districts had to either try to raise funds through bond elections (which in a property poor area such as El Paso is extremely hard to do, especially in rough economic times), lay off teachers, raise class sizes, eliminate programs, or do some combination of all of these. All of these things happened in the El Paso area. Only Canutillo ISD was able to successfully get a bond passed.
Very few districts in the state were left unscathed. Here is a list of each district in Texas and how much of a hit it took. In El Paso county/Region 19 area, the hits looked like this:
- Anthony ISD: $99,728
- Canutillo ISD: $954,571
- El Paso ISD: $16,286,923
- Ysleta ISD: $4,540,818
- Socorro ISD: $22,538,696
- Clint ISD: $1,222,843
- San Elizario ISD: $418,999
- Fabens ISD: $246,245
- Tornillo ISD: $150,700
In the El Paso / Region 19 area, that amounted to a grand total of almost $46.5 million dollars that were NOT pumped into the local economy, not sent to our teachers and students, and not sent to improve learning. How many teaching positions could that have accounted for? New playground equipment? Field trips?
When Mr. Margo was elected, his main argument to send him to Austin was that El Paso needed a Republican because the state is run by Republicans. The strong implication was, that he could make deals for El Paso with the east Texas bible thumping conservatives that would have benefited the borderland. That never happened. What happened instead was that as soon as Mr. Margo stepped off the plane at ABI, he got into lockstep with every other conservative in the legislature, and voted pretty much the way Governor Perry wanted him to. For his efforts, he was assigned to the Appropriations Committee, the PERFECT place for someone to push for the needs of his constituents back home. Did that help El Paso students in any way? No. 46 million no’s.
Mr. Margo, in recent ads, claims that Mr. Moody actually was the reason that there was such a hit in the budget, because the previous legislature voted to use stimulus funds to balance the budget. What Mr. Margo fails to mention is that the idea to use the Obama stimulus funds to balance the budget was Governor Perry’s, not Joe Moody’s. Even if Joe Moody had voted “NO” to the stimulus balanced budget idea, it would have passed anyway because the legislature was controlled by Mr. Margo’s party, the GOP, as it has been for over 16 years now. Mr. Margo says in the ad that “he had to make the tough choice” we assume to cut the $5.4 billion to education. But in reality, he did not have to at all. The last legislative session was, for all intents and purposes, one of the hardest in terms of finances. True, there was a recession, but to hear Mr. Perry speak, one would have thought Texas was a land of gold and silver streets where business was booming. So it either was doom and gloom or it was land of honey. The GOP said both. Mr. Margo and his party did nothing to come up with clever, out of the box ways to solve the education crisis. They simply slashed and burned. That was not the “tough choice” as he claims. It was the easy choice. Following the leadership of the legislature is not leadership.
There were clever and insightful ways that the legislature could have kept the funds in education, or at least not have given such a hit: They could have borrowed from the enormous “Rainy Day Fund” which was created just for such contingencies. However, not one GOP legislator thought it was needed to help lessen the blow to education. Not one. Including Mr. Margo. That was because, again, he was supporting Mr. Perry’s bid for president, and whatever Mr. Perry wanted, Mr. Margo agreed, even if it meant harming the future of the children of his district. There were other idea put forth by groups as diverse as TASBO, TASB, the teacher organizations, and others. All fell on Mr. Margo’s apparently deaf ears. Not once did he propose to help education in any problem-solving collaborative way, even though he was on the Appropriations Committee and had the power to seek alternative funding ideas. He took the easy, follow-the-leader way out of things.
Mr. Margo presented, as far as anyone can tell, not one new idea of his own for helping the students and children, teachers and administrators in K-12 of his legislative area. Not one idea to improve the way the state tests students, not one idea on the cost of school textbooks, not one idea on how to improve the broken state funding system. He has been woefully silent on the idea of school vouchers, privatization and indeed, a look at his re-election website one really has to dig to find info on education save for an ad he has been running for about 2 weeks. One has to dig deeply because there are no links to it, to find where he stands. Where he stands is again, pretty much with the GOP state platform: Among the education points on his website:
“He will DEMAND local control of schools.” (This already happens. That is why they are called INDEPENDENT school districts.)
“The Texas education system costs over $10,000 annually per student. Our education spending outpaces enrollment and inflation, and we must begin holding schools accountable for where and how money is spent. Dee will work hard to see more dollars reach the classroom, focused on student instruction rather than general and administrative costs. (This figure is incorrect and another example of how Mr. Margo parrots whatever comes out of Rick Perry’s mouth, in this case, an interview Perry had with the Dallas Morning News. Actual spending per student is closer to $8900 per year, and is well below the national average of $11,463 per student. Since he does not even know how much funding each child receives, he certainly cannot be trusted to make wise financial decisions when it comes to all children. And how much spending do the students in El Paso get? According to the El Paso Times http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_17661394 El Paso students average about $7689 per student per year, well below the state average. And , there already is a law in place about how much funding can be spent for administrative costs. It was passed during Mr. Moody’s session.)
“He will build up state curriculums and strengthen standards that effectively prepare students for college.” How will he do this? Is the current state standards sub par? If so, how does Mr. Margo reconcile the fact that, again, the state, and by extension education, has been run by his party for at least the last 16 years. What has his party done in all that time to “build up state curriculums and strengthen standards that effectively prepare students for college?” Apparently nothing.
“Dee will work toward an education system that leaves no child behind. He will work to ensure that all students who qualify for early childhood education (Pre-K) have access to it. He will strive to improve performance among students whose second language is English, and will support new and expanded high school dropout prevention programs, and greater parental involvement.” (Strive, work hard, and support. This is the political equivalent to saying “I will pray for you.” It sounds nice, but in reality, it means nothing. And quoting the no child left behind term, one of the most loathed pieces of education legislation ever, probably is not a good idea. NCLB died when Bush left the White House. Where has he been? This also goes against the GOP party platform to which he is married. History shows he picks the party over the people of his district.)
What Mr. Margo totally lacks are specifics on how he will help students IN EL PASO. He seems so enamored with Austin and the rest of Texas, there is not a single mention of what he will do for El Paso children. We can assume he will cut more funding (see above) but little else, other than what the leadership asks him to do.
I once attended a town hall meeting with Mr. Margo, where he reasoned why he only proposed 2 pieces of legislation during his first session. He said, if I recall correctly, that he liked to “work behind the scenes” and that he was not a showboater. Fair enough. However, his “working behind the scenes” did little or nothing to help the close to 250,000 Kinder-12 students in his district , or the teachers, or the administrators. If working behind the scenes produces no or negative results, then the strategy is poorly advised.
It is no secret that Mr. Margo is pretty much a puppet for whatever the GOP in Texas want him to do, and that is where the real danger lies. The GOP platform in Texas is VERY anti-Public schools, very pro-voucher, and even has a provision where they condemn the teaching of Critical Thinking in schools, something that became somewhat of a national embarrassment, yet it remains. The website Think Progress said:
“The GOP in Texas “opposes multicultural education and “critical thinking”: “We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive,” the platform says, adding that it supports teaching “common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.” In Arizona, where Republicans banned multicultural programs, students in those programs actually out-performed their peers. Texas Republicans also believe “controversial theories” such evolution and climate change — which aren’t controversial at all — “should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced.” There’s more: the GOP also opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” because they “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
The platform also condemns enrolling non-citizens in our schools, elimnation of early childhood programs (We urge Congress to repeal government- sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development.), not taking Federal funds (We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.), oppose sex education, support what they consider are traditional values (We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.) and on and on.
Mr. Margo is 100% embedded with the state GOP. 100%. He votes with them, he sides with them, he lets them tell him what to do. That is the most scary of all the problems this candidate has. He is not, it appears for El Paso. He is for the state GOP party, for whatever reason. It would be one thing if being in bed with the GOP actually benefitted the students of El Paso. It does not appear that this is the case with him.
For these reasons and more, I simply cannot support Mr. Margo. I prefer people that seem to be able to think on their own regardless of party affiliation.
My vote goes to Joe Moody.