Mrs. Bush, Abstinence and Texas
Given big budget cuts, it's critical to make smart decisions – and I wish I could be more optimistic about this. Gail Collins skewers the foolishness in Texas:
Today, let's discuss choices, starting with Barbara Bush raising an alarm and Gov. Rick Perry's personal experience with sexual abstinence.
I did throw in the last one to keep you interested. Sue me.
This month, The Houston Chronicle published an opinion piece by the former first lady titled "We Can't Afford to Cut Education," in which Mrs. Bush pointed out that students in Texas currently rank 47th in the nation in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores.
"In light of these statistics, can we afford to cut the number of teachers, increase class sizes, eliminate scholarships for underprivileged students and close several community colleges?" she asked.
You'd think there'd be an obvious answer. But the Texas State Legislature is looking to cut about $4.8 billion over the next two years from the schools. Budgets are tight everywhere, but Perry, the state's governor, and his supporters made things much worse by reducing school property taxes by a third in 2006 under the theory that a higher cigarette tax and a new business franchise tax would make up the difference. Which they didn't.
…Nobody wants to see underperforming, overcrowded schools being deprived of more resources anywhere. But when it happens in Texas, it's a national crisis. The birth rate there is the highest in the country, and if it continues that way, Texas will be educating about a tenth of the future population. It ranks third in teen pregnancies — always the children most likely to be in need of extra help. And it is No. 1 in repeat teen pregnancies.
Which brings us to choice two. Besides reducing services to children, Texas is doing as little as possible to help women — especially young women — avoid unwanted pregnancy.
…Meanwhile, Perry — having chosen not to help young women avoid unwanted pregnancies and not to pay enough to educate the booming population of Texas children — wowed the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington with his states' rights rhetoric.
Which would be fine, as I said, if his state wasn't in charge of preparing a large chunk of the nation's future work force. Perry used to be famous for his flirtation with talk of secession. Maybe we should encourage him to revisit it.
February 16, 2011