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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Monday Roundup - TAKS, Dewhurst, and Iowa

The Association of Texas Professional Educators meets in Austin today for some lobbying action, which will include a review of teacher pay, cost of living increases for retired teachers, and discussion on the TAKS test. It is no secret that educators don't like the TAKS test, and one legislator or another saying that enemies of the TAKS test are enemies of accountability is an old saw that keeps getting older. Now that parents are also organizing against the test in increasing numbers, there might be some changes made.

There's also other trouble on the educational front, in that Texas' dropout rate is up around 50% in urban areas, and in some cases it is usually higher. It is probably because I don't have kids yet, but I had no idea the aggregate dropout rate was as high as it is, at 25 to 35%. This is a big problem, and it has been mounting for years. A high school dropout is at a significant disadvantage for the rest of their lives, and the number of dropouts in the last 20 years - 2.5 million, or, as the article states, twice the population of San Antonio - has created an entire underclass that is likely to stay stuck in poverty and suffer all the ailments that poverty brings.

LT. Governor David Dewhurst says the dropout rate is one of his top priorities, and this piece from the Chron's Clay Robison outlines how he is often perceived inside Austin as the moderate of the state's top political leadership trifecta, which also includes Rick Perry and Tom Craddick. I am not in any way shocked when I hear people talk about a possible Dewhurst run for Governor, and you shouldn't be either - it is more or less a foregone conclusion. However, the anti sex offender ad campaign during the last cycle and his recent call for more prisons is, according to Robison, a Dewhurst attempt to shore up his conservative credentials with a future run for office in mind.

As for the lege, a few points of interest were in the morning news, the first being that Governor Perry is having a hard time selling his direct rebate idea to the Senate. The much-touted surplus is not nearly the $14.3 billion face-value it has been reported at, the common feeling is that most of whatever is left out of the costs that have already been hitched to that pile should be used to make good on promised tax cuts, and the idea of sending checks to businesses makes some lawmakers uncomfortable. There's also the question of who to repay and how much, since there's no state income tax. It seems a little like Perry declared the issue a legislative emergency and is now waiting for someone else to solve a problem that only exists politically, if at all.

In national news, Senator Clinton made her first trip to Iowa this weekend, and the Washington Post sat down with a panel of essentially uncommitted Democratic activists to see how her visit played. The voters make some good points and some astute observations, and the reporter outlines how wide open the field is. Senator Clinton's vote on the war and perceived lack of a plan on that front seems to be an issue, along with whether she could win the general election.

So she has a lot of work to do among the prospective voters in the first primary state in the nation, and she needs to do it fast. There's another Washington Post story which details her lack of organizational infrastructure in Iowa, and in which the point is made that she voted against ethanol subsidies, which won't make Iowa crazy for her anytime soon.

In other presidential news, the New York Times has some news about the news; specifically, about how the presidential campaign cycle is getting longer. Stories like this run every cycle once most of the major players have formally declared or gotten their committees together, and this one in particular refers to the 23-month campaign. In political science, it is more often referred to as the "permanent campaign," a reference to a book published in 1982 by Sidney Blumenthal about the death of the political party system and the rise of the political consultant. My main thought about how long this presidential cycle is going to be is that the candidates need to be cautious so that the public doesn't get sick of them. I think overcampaigning this early is just as bad as getting started too late.

Finally, if international political risk gets you going (and how could it not?), consider the latest action by Iran's ambassador to Iraq in laying out his country's plans for their expanded role and influence in Iraq. This is happening shortly after President Bush delivered a warning to Iran about their involvement in Iraqi affairs during his State of the Union. The situation, as always, bears watching.

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