Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dallas ISD Board Meeting, children suffering, and Texas HB 354

The filled-to-capacity Dallas ISD Board meeting this evening was an exceptionally sad event.  Fourty speakers addressed the planned loss of teachers in their school, and other budget cut trauma being inflicted by the $27 billion dollar Texas deficit. Children spoke of their loss, of their fear of loosing teachers. I left after about 10 speakers. 

It was simply too much. The problem is a state budget deficit. This evening many good and noble parents, children, and citizens were speaking out in attempts to protect the schools they know.  To listen to this, while knowing this is only the tip of the iceberg, grew more frightening with every speaker. The same agony is going on in every district in Texas!

What added to that frustration was knowing that the regressive taxation system, one built over the years by Texas politicians directed by paid lobbiests, has led to the human tragedy now unfolding.  Unless there are significant changes made in our Texas taxation system such problems will continue. 

The web site has a painful two page summary of the state and local tax rates in Texas listed by income level.  This information is also addressed in a Dallas Morning News article from November of 2009.  It shows that the poorest 20% of families in Texas pay 12.2% of their income toward state and local taxes. The next 20% of families, up to a $31,000 annual income, pay 10.2% of their income in state and local taxes. The most wealthy 1% of families in Texas pay only 3% of their income in state and local taxes.

If these 100,000 most wealthy Texas families, with an average annual income of about $2 million in 2011, were to have their share of the state and local tax burden raised by 5 percentage points, almost $10 billion could be generated to cut the Texas budget disaster nearly in half, even without the Texas Rainy Day Fund!   Even with such a change the poorest Texans would still be paying a proportion of their income into state and local taxes that is over 50% higher than the rate paid by the 100,000 most wealthy Texas families! How can you compare the suffering between these two groups?

I've been told repeatedly today that a state income tax this will not happen "in Texas."   Are we not telling the truth about what is about to happen to our students, our elderly, and the poor in Texas?  Allow those legislators who are willing to protect the rich while allowing 4,800,000 students to suffer to stand up and vote so they can be counted!  Transparency is needed!  We must know what our legislators are doing.  Is this suffering being ignored?  Then Texas voters can vote at the ballot box after they have have seen what our schools are like next year after the planned cuts.

Support Texas HB 354 and bring it to discussion, possible amendments, and a vote.  Legislators must be counted!  Just go to the Texas Legislature online and contact the members of the Ways and Means Committee where the bill is now assigned.  They have the power to both add any needed amendments and pass HB 354 to the floor for a vote. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toward a Texas budget surplus, & more progress in education

If every Texan paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as are paid by the average cafeteria worker or teacher's aid, then Texas would have a budget surplus to deal with instead of a deficit!

Study regressive taxation and the state and local tax rates by income level in Texas at . There you will find that the 20% of Texans with the lowest incomes pay 12.2% of their income in state and local taxes. For the next 20% the average percentage paid is 10.3%. The most wealthy 1% of Texans only pay 3% of their income in state and local taxes.

If all Texans paid 10.3% of income in state and local taxes, Texas would have a budget surplus!  If that percentage, and more, is not too high for the poorest 40% of families in Texas, why is it too high for the wealthy?  If this correction was done with a state income tax, we could also deduct it from from our federal taxes as a federal deduction offset. The federal government would pay part of the cost.

Without such a change, the 4,800,000 children in the public schools of Texas will suffer. They will suffer due to a multitude of state services for children being cut, including school cuts leading to a lower quality of education in more crowded classrooms. This will affect their entire lives, and the future of Texas. What are we allowing to happen in Austin in our name?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Texas education progress endangered by missing information?

According to a spreadsheet provided by the U.S. Census Bureau at, in Houston, families with $25,000 incomes pay 9.9% of income toward state and local taxes while those with $150,000 incomes pay only 4.4% toward the same state and local taxes.

This is called a regressive tax, one wherein the poor pay a greater percentage of their income than the wealthy.  Texas is one of the 10 states with the most regressive tax system in the nation. More details about this pattern begin on page 8 of the report titled "Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States," at This study shows on page 102 that Texas requires families in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale to pay more than three-and-a-half times as great a share of their earnings in taxes as families in the top one percent.

I have spoken with about 20 people these past 48 hours about these numbers. All were amazed.  The extend of the regressive tax pattern in Texas is not well known by the public.  I would welcome information from anyone aware of reports and data showing that the Texas tax system is not as severely regressive as indicated by these numbers. Please email me at if you know where such information is located online.  I will link to it here.

The Texas Legislature is planning to lessen the education resources available to the 4,800,000 children in Texas public schools, and thereby forcing our children to have something less in their educational process.  This endangers the education progress Texans have enjoyed these past 5 years.  It endangers the future of Texas. We must have all such information, like tax rates related to income level and other details of the regressive tax system in Texas, very visible and publicly known.  Let the people know the numbers, and then let them decide what they think of the decisions made in Austin.

Again, please send corrections and/or better sources for such state and local tax rate information for Texas to  All voters need to know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Texas Education Progress Survival: DIY students

Trillions of hours of annual do-it-yourself (DIY) labor are the power behind our nation's ingenuity and growth. DIY work is also the power behind any student's success in middle school, high school, or college.

Until a student takes ownership for their own success in school, with personal goals they claim as their own, DIY efficiency doesn't happen. The process of setting life goals is a more normal process in small town and agrarian settings. It is too often lost in the rush of modern urban settings. If Texas inflicts the currently proposed budget cuts on our students, it will only be with expanding such DIY student efforts that current Texas Educational Progress will survive.

Texas secondary schools do not focus early enough, or strong enough, on the life goals students need to drive such DIY effort. Consequently students too rarely embrace the critical DIY ownership needed for their own education. School is something done to them, not something they understand as a resource toward personal goals. Thus one out of three Texas students drop out, one of the highest dropout rates in the nation!

By middle school the personal goals needed to drive DIY student energy should be expressed and documented.  Such goals should be a comfortable topic of conversation. DIY student ownership of the educational process should grow to dominate personal decisions long before high school graduation.

The School Archive Project started in 2005 with a strong focus on long-term goals. That focus, combined with dynamic personal leadership at the schools, has helped liberate the DIY student energy in the targeted high schools. The major high school targeted with this project has seen graduation rates go from 33% to over 60% in 4 years.    We are just beginning to see the power of DIY students empowered with strong long term goals.

Putting such goals into written form starts in the School Archive Project with parents writing a letter to their child about their own dreams for their child. That letter is then used by the student in writing a letter to themselves about their own history and goals for the future.  Both letters are placed into the same self-addressed envelope, one envelope for each student. That sealed envelope is then placed on the shelf for that class inside the 500-pound vault bolted to the floor in the school lobby. The vault is very visible and seen by students several times every school day, a reminder of the dreams and goals in their letters.  It is also a reminder of their planned 10-year class reunion when these envelopes will be opened. That is also when they will be invited to speak with then current students about their recommendations for success. They know to expect questions such as: "What would you do differently if you were 13 again?"

These 10-year class reunions should become a priceless source of feedback for teachers most dedicated to constantly improving their work with each new class of students.

The current Texas educational budget crisis requires new, tax free resources for our schools, including better ways to focus our students onto their own lives. Now is certainly when Texas needs such a low-cost, $1 per student (usually donated), resource as a School Archive Project in every secondary school. Our students must focus by middle school on their own long term goals, and update that focus constantly as they move toward graduation.  They must be motivated to work on their own DIY student efforts in order to get the education they will need to be employable in 2020.