I attended the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area Texas Governor's race debate held on Sunday, October 3 here in Houston.
The debate was held at the Harris County Department of Education building you see pictured above. As you will note in the picture, this education building is named after Ronald Reagan.
That would be funny if the joke were not on all of us.
Three of the four candidates for Governor of Texas took part in this debate.
The three in attendance were---
Not attending the debate was incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.
Governor Perry does not believe that the people of Texas merit the chance to see and compare all the candidates in one place and at one time.
The focus of the debate was education. There was a warm-up panel of three Harris County school superintendents to discuss education issues in Texas.
So the event was really something of a double feature.
The three local superintendents all agreed that educating kids is a challenge. They all agreed that kids must take many standardized tests, but that they sought to educate kids beyond the tests. They all agreed that money is tight. They all agreed that they agreed.
Bill White spoke to the fact that anybody born in the U.S. is a citizen. This was in response to a question about if the children of undocumented persons should get government services. Mr. White's stand is clearly the correct Constitutional view.
Deb Shafto said she would be willing to raise taxes to support education. This is a good position that puts the long-term interests of Texans ahead of short-term politics. Texas has one of the worst drop out rates in the nation.
Angry Kathie Glass said that the number of immigrants coming across the border represented an "Invasion." If you hold this to be true, it seems to me you'd be justified to do just about anything to repel an "invasion."
Mr. White did not at any point mention poverty or the large number of poor Texans. He may have alluded to the fact of poverty, but he made repeated and clear mention of the middle class. The middle class does indeed need a government that is on their side. Yet at the same time, it is frustrating that in a state as poor as Texas, the former Democratic Mayor of a city with a near 50% child poverty rate did not discuss attacking poverty as an important way of improving education. We need a root and branch approach to education because as it says in Job 18:16---
"Their roots will dry up, and their branches will wither."
Ms. Shafto said that she has been a union member and that she supported teacher's unions. She said that while she has seen these unions at times pursue things she did not fully agree with, that people have a right to organize and that teachers unions are often good advocates for education.
Extreme Ms. Glass said that she would get rid of truancy laws and that if kids as young as 14 wanted to drop out that they should be allowed to do so.
That is just what she said.
Mr. White said the cost of attending our Texas state universities has gone up a great deal while Rick Perry has been Governor. This is a correct assertion by Mr. White and it is not clear what Governor Perry is going to do about this problem. Maybe if the Governor had been at the debate, his views on the matter would be more clear.
Ms. Shafto used the analogy of a "jump ball" in basketball to describe how Texas teachers are competing for bonuses. I enjoyed this metaphor. As Sojourner Truth knew, we must sell the shadow to support the substance.
Far Out Ms. Glass said that local government control of schools was okay, but that Austin should stay out of the picture to the extent possible.
Yet if the issue for libertarians is the place of government in our lives, local government is still government. If any level of government can be trusted to run something as important as are our schools, why can't government be trusted to handle a number of responsibilities? Libertarians live in a fantasy world.
All in all, the debate served a useful public purpose. I urge folks to consider all the candidates. In my view, either Mr. White or Ms. Shafto would do a good job for Texas. I will be voting for Mr. White because he will be a far better Governor for the future of Texas than Mr. Perry. 10 years of Rick Perry so far is more than enough.
(Below--- The debate stage. This is an approved LWV picture. I followed the rules and did not take any pictures inside the debate hall.)