The state comptroller recognizes that education is the key to solving Texas' problems.
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/recommendations
As Election Day approaches, Texas finds itself locked in a government and tax structure better suited to the 19th century than to the 21st. Its depleted natural resources can no longer finance quality education with money to spare. Its low taxes and limited government regulation are no longer enough to lure businesses looking for a skilled work force and a high quality of life for their executives and employees.
The future of Texas lies with its children, yet the state is failing many of those children on almost every level. One out of every four Texas children lives in poverty. About 70 percent of these impoverished children have parents who work but receive low pay and no benefits. Too many children growing up in Texas are poorly educated — a drag on the economy that reduces tax revenue as it drives up demand for social services.
One in four children is without health insurance — the highest rate in the United States. Uninsured children tend to be unhealthy and receive care in expensive hospital emergency rooms, burdening taxpayers and employers who pick up the tab.
Texas officials have not acted vigorously to reduce toxic air pollution, particularly in the Houston area. Perhaps the politicians in Austin are too concerned with maintaining the profits of existing businesses or don't want to offend campaign contributors — or worse, are simply indifferent to public health. Businesses have been deterred from moving here, and many residents are at increased risk for cancer and — especially with children and the elderly — respiratory disease.
Texas badly needs to change its philosophy of governing. In hopes of fostering this change, the Houston Chronicle endorses Carole Keeton Strayhorn for governor. Of the four candidates, she is best equipped to shake up the status quo in a way that balances the needs of both business and residents.
Strayhorn is running as an independent, portraying herself as an outsider who wants to give Austin a jolt. In one sense that is true. She would bring a fresh style of leadership to the executive branch. But it should be remembered that Strayhorn is no novice when it comes to working the levers of government.
She has a lifetime of experience in government and public service. Once mayor of Austin, then a member of the powerful Texas Railroad Commission, Strayhorn serves as state comptroller. She knows how state government operates and how to make it more efficient and effective. Government, she says, can be leaner without being meaner.
More than any other candidate in this race, Strayhorn recognizes that the key to solving Texas' problems and securing the state's future is education. Half of all state tax dollars go to the public schools, yet half of Texas' children drop out before graduating from high school. In the information age, good jobs require higher education, yet too few of those who graduate go on to college.
The population of Texas is rapidly becoming more Hispanic, an ethnic group in which children are disproportionately at risk of dropping out. Unless Texas does a better job of keeping all children in school and preparing them for higher education, the state will not have enough middle-class taxpayers to pay for the education and government services a civilized society requires.
Strayhorn promises to make Texas public schools a model for the nation. She has a blueprint to raise teacher pay, recruit quality teachers, provide adequate and reliable school funding, increase student performance and cut the disastrous dropout rate. She has won the backing of the state's teachers.
Unhealthy children tend to be poor students. To increase the number of Texas children with health insurance, Strayhorn vows to make maximum use of the Children's Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP and largely financed by the federal government. She decries decisions in recent years to cut the program's services and send hundreds of millions of dollars contributed by Texans to other states. She would end the contract that left registration and eligibility for social services in the hands of an inept and uncaring private company.
Gov. Rick Perry has missed his chance to make the kind of changes Texas needs. The other two candidates have not shown the kind of vision and leadership to do any better. The Chronicle believes only Carole Keeton Strayhorn has the experience and savvy to win election to the governorship and then use the office to improve public education and change the course of Texas for the better.
George Eliot GeorgeEliot2009@yahoo.com