School finance amendment a cynical display
Friday, 24 June 2011 12:11

DougToney2007New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung Publisher Doug Toney (chair of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and Texas Press Association Legislative Advisory Committee) has granted reprint permission for the editorial below, which was published June 22.

Please credit New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. 

 And if the students of Texas did not already see that politics takes precedent over education under this administration, Gov. Rick Perry this past week gave them another object lesson.

Perry is trying to attach a totally unrelated piece of legislation to the school finance bill that would keep secret the details of his travel security team’s travel costs — an effort that was defeated in committee during the regular session.

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Perry’s office asked lawmakers this past week to amend the school finance bill to include a piece of his personal political agenda.

This effort is a ludicrous slap in the face to all Texas school children and the teachers fighting to keep their jobs.

The amendment is a rehashing of a bill that died in committee after testimony from open government advocates, including the publisher of this newspaper Doug Toney, which convinced Sen. Jeff Wentworth he didn’t have the votes or the support in the Senate to get the bill passed. It should have died there.But in a ridiculous bit of political chicanery, Perry is trying to attach it to the school finance bill — a move that flagrantly goes against the concept of an open and accountable government.

He is trying to get this through even as a lawsuit is pending in the Texas Supreme Court over a voucher from the governor’s trip to the Bahamas in 2004 that shows the security team spending almost $500 on golf cart and diving equipment rental.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Supreme Court is considering an appeal of two lower court decisions favoring the public's right to review the travel records under the Texas Public Information Act. The Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News and the Austin American-Statesman filed suit in 2007 to obtain records after the DPS withheld them, claiming security concerns.

The bill that died in committee would have allowed the Texas Department of Public Safety to release only a summary of travel costs for security officers who protect the governor and other elected officials and their families — meals, hotel and other details would be kept secret for security reasons.

The Dallas Morning News reported on May 19, “Texas newspaper editors and open government advocates left the Senate Select Committee on Open Government jubilant Thursday after it became clear that Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, didn't have the committee votes to pass that bill.”

They apparently celebrated too soon. Perry isn’t going to let this die until he gets what he wants — even if it means tucking it in among school finance.

What does Perry have to hide? Why doesn’t he want Texas taxpayers to know what they are funding? And why won’t he let this issue go?

The Texas Tribune, an online only news organization based in Austin, has a page they call the “PerryTracker.”

The PerryTracker follows the governor’s travels across the country as he promotes his book, “Fed Up!” or otherwise raises his political profile on the national stage.

Each trip requires security and — unless there's a provision otherwise — Texas taxpayers bear the costs.

Whether you believe Perry’s argument that the public’s access to information about the details of his travels should be limited for security reasons, there’s no twist of logic that could argue that it belongs as an amendment on the school finance bill.

Perry’s effort to keep his travel expenses hidden from public accountability has nothing to do with education and his attempt to tie it to education funding is cynical and disrespectful. This amendment must not be allowed.