Hello student demographer/economists…welcome to a rather sharp turn in our road (maybe a welcome one, after all that data stuff) We are now turning down a path that is equal parts legal theory & principle; constitutional history & culture, with current politics & policy issues folded in. What a recipe. Welcome to Texas government… let’s start with theory. The kind of theory that you must be able to relate to, and not view as cocktail party or talk radio conversation. In other words theory (ideas) about good, or at least effective governing (not politics). Situations like the current state budget “situation”, the state’s health care/insurance setting, inadequate education finances, or especially immigration and security remind us about the vitality and purpose of our constitutional design, and its limits for that matter. Stop for a second to reflect. I mentioned a few politically controversial items in the paragraph above. But they aren’t just that simple, or flimsy. What I mean is that politics is simplistic, while governance based on law is complex. Any simpleton can fill out a candidate form, and possibly get elected–then what? They are situations where a constitutional issue (Arizona police power, Florida and Texas Voting ID laws) or a constitutional provision (taxes, health care, etc) are the basis for the political problem. But constitutions aren’t absolute, are they? The important thing to learn now is how the realities of American/Texas citizenship, pertains to the state constitution (within the framework of the US Constitution). Thus, we need to compare the two constitutions to be able to learn, and thus analyze or critique. Caution: part of the comparison also involves history, and previous legal decisions. This is the way our system works…for 225 years. Politicians and wild-eyed activists often leave that part out, so they can blather about what the constitution means in a theoretical vacuum. You want a good example? Suggesting the repeal (negate) the 14th Amednment to the US Constitution’s clause that “all persons born here are US citizens” Or, repeal the 17th Amendment, which gave voters the ability to elect the two U.S. senators in each state. Huh? There are much more effective and likely measures to reform illegal immigration and its impacts, but this is an insult to the American people the constitution represents. Besides, the process to amend the US Constitution is very difficult and time-consuming–it would simply never happen. Maybe that’s why politicians make these statements.
Assignment — please read extra carefully the first few sections of Chapter 2. In those pages are a number of important concepts and definitions. Focus on the concept of concurrent powers–those “shared” by the two governments. They are taxing & spending, land use/regulating commerce, and police powers (education, law enforcement, public health)
The “shared” powers are essentially the cutting edge of what American Federalism is, which is constantly in motion. It works pretty much along three separate but connected pathways:
- funds (from the Federal government) AND state tax system
- US Supreme Courtlegal outcomes (precedents)
- TexasSupreme Court legal outcomes
Now, try to conceptualize the way concurrent powers work–so think of how each of the concurrent areas would play out in the real day to day sense. Start with law enforcement, for example.
State and federal law enforcement are concurrent, i.e. happening at the same time. However, who, or what is the state version, and who or what is federal ? Taxing is another example—what does the state tax, and what is taxed by the federal govt?
For the ASSIGNMENT, let’s use a very potent tool, the 2009 Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus Plan) . When you access this link:
You’ll see numerous Texas agencies or schools and universities, that have been implementing programs allocated by the Recovery Act.
UPDATE/FYI: Guv-candidate Perry reject a half-billion dollar education incentive from the Recovery Act last year, because he felt concerned that aligning core curricula standards might “dumb down” education in this state. I’ll let you evaluate that for yourselves. Texas also declined to participate in Race to the Top program, as this would benefit some in public schools, as opposed to private entities.
You’ll also see $$ coming in from the US Department of Homeland Security. There is an on-going investigation about abuse of the funds from DHS, as many local law enforcement have purchased some really cool stuff for themselves. Article to follow on homepage. the Texas Dept of Public Safety is responsible for oversight of $$ coming the federal govt, but DPS is Perry’s pet agency.
For assignment, click on a particular agency, for each of the four areas below, and look around. List below the name of the agency or school, etc, and how much its accepted from the Plan. List what the funds are being used for, etc.
LAND USE / REGULATING COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY—
LAW ENFORCEMENT —
Sometimes we don’t know the answers to how governments work together, and apart, but now we have to begin putting that constitutional framework into a living, daily environment! I sincerely believe, and know that most of the time, government agencies want to coordinate for some overall betterment of things. Elected officials are the ones getting in the way, not the governments involved, and that’s the most accurate and sincere notion you’ll hear (at least for now 😉
George W. Bush and his power circle (including Rick Perry of course) is the gift that just keep giving in this state. As governor, he signed school reform proposals that gave more “local control” over K-12 education to ISD (Independent School District) governments. Great! Isn’t it in the state constitution that all Texas kids be provided public education? Yes.
So how does the state fulfill this basic and vital responsibility, by granting greater control to ISD? Easy Peasy. It doesn’t, because it doesn’t have to fulfill the funding in ways it used to, starting with the ratio of funding from the state’s huge treasury. AND by “de-regulating” the cost of tuition. Thanks again Governors Bush and Perry. But don’t take my word for it, just ask your family and friends how much tuition was 10-12 years ago…
When are the middle and working class workers, taxpayers, students, and parents in this state going to read the signs? What the state government has done is systematically undermine education, slice and dice. Small changes over time, and then it’s beyond reach. Our property taxes are again increased to their legal limits, to make up some of the state’s shortfall. The rest is tuition and fees (don’t forget those!) increases.
For the discussion board 5 points, please read the article below by Ross Ramsey, which is very kind toward the movers of education policy…Why I don’t know. I suppose its so he can continue to be granted interviews with the slick ones.
Please indicate in your post, the following:
- Who is the person interviewed? What is his background?
- Explain the change (how much in %) in funding for higher education coming from the state
- What insights do you get from the interview– that is, does the Chairman seem pro- or hands-off education finance and tuition reform
- Can you spot the portion of the interview where he does the politicians classic “pivot” away from the problem or question–to get off the troublesome topic of tuition to quality/success of the school.