Sunday, September 30, 2007

Progressive Blog Round-Up

It's Monday and that means it's time for another installment of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Blog Round-Up. This week's round-up was complied by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Blue 19th wonders: Can someone ask Randy Neugebauer why he hates college students?

Evan at the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Blog asks where's Human Rights Campaign as leaders in congress are considering leaving transgender works out of ENDA because, unlike other GLBT political organizations, H.R.C. has been silent so far, and that's unacceptable.

In How are these alike? Fort Worth and Wise County TXsharon of Bluedaze warns Fort Worth residents about the dangers of Barnett Shale drilling, conflicts of interest and good old boy politics.

McBlogger goes all medieval on the Texas Transportation Commission's derriere... Like toll roads? Not McBlogger!

Texas Kaos community member Carol Gee gives a primer on terms we're all going to need to become much more familiar with in 50 Ways to Understand the Protect America Act.

Managing diabetes is a real pain, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson analyzes the latest actions regarding HD-52 in Krusee's Influence And Credibility Are Gone, Time For HD-52 To Start Over.

BossKitty at Blue Bloggin notes that Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), representing the 25th District of Texas, hits Bush in the nose again, and this time its on SCHIP. She also tells about some of the antics of Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) on the vote--and how that's all about earmarks.

In a pair of posts, Nat-Wu at Three Wise Men asks if the city of Irving is practicing racist law enforcement.

Off the Kuff takes a look at State Proposition 2, which an education bond issue that should not be confused with the Houston ISD's more controversial referendum.

Over at Stop Cornyn, Matt tells us how John Cornyn has once again voted against Texas Children. Another post at Stop Cornyn notes just how out of touch Cornyn's vote was.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal talks about the Project Farm Team meeting, with guest speaker Vince Leibowitz, and how that organization can turn Denton County blue.

The Texas Blue, one of the recent additions to the Texas Progressive Alliance has an audio interview with State Representative Kirk England, who discusses his background and what motivated his recent decision to switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

Vince at Capitol Annex tells us how Rick Perry's decision to order the state's two largest retirement systems to divest in Iranian-related investments could cause a special session.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part For The Left gives his views about people saying elect any Democrat and why he thinks that is total BS in Rick Noriega, Dan Grant and John Edwards 3 Great Democrats To Get Elected

Half Empty'scoverage of a presentation by Hank Gilbert makes note of what a huge issue the Trans Texas Corridor is. Hal attended Hank Gilbert's informative discussion on Saturday and reports.

We've Waited Too Long to Compromise

Sign this petition.

Let Speaker Pelosi know that transgender workers need protection from discrimination. Of our community, transgender workers are the most likely victims of employment discrimination. We can't allow congressional leaders to leave them out of ENDA!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Where's HRC

Leaders in Congress are considering removing protection for transgendered workers from the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. I think this is unacceptable. In fact, transgendered workers face discrimination more often than anyone else in our community.

Nine of our nation's most prominent GLBT Activists organizations have come out with strong, joint statement against this misguided compromise.

Here's the statement:

Our collective position remains clear and consistent regarding the status of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Our organizations oppose the removal of protections for transgender people from ENDA. We would also oppose any bill that did not protect transgender people.

We are shocked and upset that, according to the Washington Blade, influential members of the House of Representatives have apparently made a decision to remove protections for transgender people from the bill. If true, this decision was made without consultation with leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

While we don’t doubt the sincerity of Congressional leadership’s intent to take action and be helpful to the LGBT community, we cannot disagree more with this strategy. We will continue to work with LGBT-supportive members of
Congress to urge their colleagues to immediately drop this strategy.

Where's HRC! I hope this isn't a sign that HRC accepts this terrible turn of events. Tell them what you think about their silence.

Matthew Shepherd Act Passes Senate

The U.S. Senate has passed the Matthew Shepherd Act, the land mark legislation that adds GLBT protection to the current hate crimes law. The Democrat controlled House of Representatives passed the same bill earlier this year. In 2004, the Senate passed a similar bill, but it was stripped away in conference with the then Republican lead house.

Yesterday, the hate crimes bill was added as an amendment to a must pass pentagon spending bill. The amendment was approved by a voice vote, with no dissenting votes. The final vote for passage in the bill was 60-39.

President Bush has claimed that GLBT people do not need hate crimes protection. He has not said whether he will veto the spending bill due to this amendment.

Also, Larry Craig, America's most famous and sad closet-case, voted against the hate crimes amendment. Shameful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hate Crimes Vote Expected Tomorrow -- Everything You Need to Know

As we start to look forward to the upcoming primaries in May and the 2008 election, let's remember what a difference a Democratic majority has made. Case in point: it looks like the U.S. Senate will vote on extending hate crimes protections to the GLBT community. For over a decade progress towards equal rights has stagnated ion Congress. Now, in addition to the Matthew Shepherd Act, we look forward to ENDA passage and the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell." Be on the look out for a vote Tomorrow.

I've been hunting the web looking for interesting resources and data on hate crimes. Here are some helpful links:

  • The Republic of T. is an excellent blog that has been chronicling tragic hate crimes that have been committed against GLBT Americans. The author has been adding all of his articles to Wikipedia. This blog is true example of citizen journalism at its best. Check it out.
  • The HRC Back Story has lots of info about the current bill before Congress, including the text of the bill.
  • Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan has an interesting article about the history of hate crimes legislation.
  • The Williams Institute has published a fascinating report that demonstrates the prevalence of GLBT hate crimes. It compares the ratio of GLBT hate crimes to hate crimes already covered by federal legislation.
  • Street Prophets refutes all the right wing propaganda against protecting GLBT that has been spewed out over the years.

Monday, September 24, 2007

John Edwards First to Announce HIV/AIDS Strategy

Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards announced a detailed plan for combating HIV/AIDS. He is the first presidential candidate to address HIV/AIDS in such a detailed, comprehensive way.

Read the entire plan here. Here's a summary:

  • Guaranteeing health insurance for every American – including HIV/AIDS patients -- the care they need when they need it and expanding Medicaid to cover HIV-positive individuals before they reach later stages of disabilities and AIDS.
  • *Fighting the disease in the African American and Latino communities, where the harm is now greatest.
  • *Calling for universal access to HIV/AIDS medicine across the world, investing $50 billion over five years to meet that goal.
  • Changing the policies that protect big drug companies, at the expense of people dying of HIV/AIDS in developing countries.
Here are some reviews of the plan:

"This plan is both bold and achievable, and we are thrilled to see Senator Edwards' tremendous leadership on this issue. It's exciting to see such a realistic, science-based approach to the epidemic in the US and globally."

Dr. Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance Fund
September 24, 2007

"Senator Edwards becomes the first candidate to respond to the HIV/AIDS 'Call to Action' calling on every Presidential candidate to commit to developing a results-oriented national AIDS strategy to reduce HIV infection rates, ensure access to care and treatment and eliminate racial disparities."

The AIDS Action Council
September 24, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Texas Progressive Blog Round-Up

Check out what's happening in the Texas progressive blogosphere. This week's installment is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

It's about one thing. TXsharon at Bluedaze tells us why we have to make it about something else.

Bill Howell of StoutDemBlog, a new member of the Texas Progressive Alliance, takes a look at Kirk England's recent party switch as well as other recent party switches in Dallas County in Rove's Permanent Majority Collapses: Now What Do We Do With All These Defectors?

Boadicea at Texas Kaos wonders if MoveOn doesn't owe John Cornyn a thank you note.

Musings discovers that the lead GOP presidential contenders are too busy for Black and Latino sponsored debates, while the local Harris County GOP claim they are home to Hispanics because of their once a year bike give away.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News has word on Mayor Manlove of Pasadena entering the race to challenge Lampson for Congress and the mayor's race it opens up He also has a short colorful digest of Naomi Klein promoting her book on Disaster Capitalism.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts on recent news that Gov. Perry and Speaker Craddick - who Krussee excoriated at the end of the legislative session--will appear at a fundraiser for him in Krusee Throws Reagan Over The Wall And Under The Bus.

Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger takes a look at some of the dumber things to come out of the right this week, like Bill O'Reilly's trip to a Harlem hot spot where he discovered that it was just like a 'real' restaurant, you know, like Olive Garden.

Off the Kuff looks at the causes and effects of Kirk England's party switch.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part For The Left looks at UT football and ask a simple question - UTLonghorns or UT Thugs.

Burnt Orange Report and its diarists are following the Kirk England switchover with enthusiasm. After breaking the story on Wednesday, the entirestaff, welcomes the newest Democrat to the House.

KT at Stop Cornyn shows how Junior Senator John Cornyn is wasting time again. Instead of getting funding for CHIP or getting our troops the armor they need, John Cornyn forced a vote condemning Yet another example of failed leadership and Junior John being out of touch with Texas needs.

at the Caucus Blog covered two major stories this week. First, after months of investigation, discussion, and debate, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus has decided to endorse the HISD bond proposal. Second, Evan has looked into the history of the fight for a federal Employment Non-discrimination Act in the post "ENDA Deja Vu."

Bradley at North Texas Liberal discusses how Washington, D.C. almost had the vote, but lost it due to greedy Senate Republicans. Only eight Republicans could be bothered to vote for the legendary bill that would have allowed the District a voting member of Congress.

The marriage of the Republican party to theocracy is no accident. Right wing investors like Richard Mellon Scaife are molding US churches, notes CouldBeTrue at in "What does an El Paso Church have to do with the right wing" at South Texas Chisme.

It was quite a week for Senator Box Turtle; he led the Senate charge against free speech, voted against habeas corpus, and against adequate down time for our soldiers. As PDiddie at Brains and Eggs points out, he now owns the war on terror -- in addition to the war on the Constitution and all Americans. But he did unwittingly sponsor a successful fundraiser for, so he wasn't a complete failure.

WhosPlayin joins a local Republican activist in opposing tax abatements for speculative real estate development in Lewisville.

Vince at Capitol Annex has been keeping tabs on the Texas Conservative Coalition and its town hall meetings across East Texas in which they propose to eliminate property taxes in favor of an expanded sales tax, and points out that at least one new candidate has already started drinking their Kool-Aid.

Hal at Half Empty was at a campaign kickoff fundraiser for Ron Reynolds who is running for State Rep in HD 27. He took videos and did a series. Links to the series is at his summary posting: Ron E. Reynolds is Running for State
Rep in HD 27

Blue 19th notes that Randy Neugebauer can't hide his contempt for veterans from everyone. So which party was it that supported our troops? Oh yeah, the one that doesn't start with "Republican".

The Caucus Endorses the HISD Bond Proposal

The decision to endorse the HISD bond was not made quickly or easily. It was made after nearly a month of investigation, discussion, and debate. Advocates, both for and against, were consulted and met with multiple times. In the end, despite reservations, the screening committee recommended endorsement, and the caucus board voted unanimously to accept that recommendation. When all was said and done, the extensive screening process (detailed below) cultivated confidence in HISD's plan, and therefore, the Caucus's endorsement is enthusiastic and highly credible.

It started with an initial screening in early August. It was clear even then that there were serious questions about the details of the bond as proposed, but, regardless, the screening committee voted to recommend endorsement. The question was then put before the membership at our August general meeting. State Representative Sylvester Turner, Council Members Peter Brown and Sue Lovell, Controller Annise Parker, and other Caucus members voiced concerns about the specific projects proposed in the bond, and, hearing these questions, the membership voted to postpone any endorsement. A special committee was formed to investigate the proposal's specifics, and the Caucus Board was given the power to review the findings of the committee and make the endorsement decision on behalf of the general membership.

Lots of voices and points of view were considered by the investigative committee. Even HISD Superintendent, Dr. Abelardo Saavedra, made a historic appearance before the committee to answer questions about the proposal. This is the first time an HISD superintendent has ever met with the GLBT Political Caucus. At this meeting, Superintendent Saavadra promised changes to the Bond proposal. He also invited the Caucus's input, and promised a seat at the discussion table to the GLBT community. At this point the Caucus decided to not make any recommendations in regard to the passage of the bond, hoping that it would be pulled from the ballot this fall. This hope was founded on the conversation the committee shared with Dr. Saavadra, but the HISD Board of Trustees voted this Monday to go forward this fall with a revised version of the plan.

Yesterday, the committee met once again with a representative from HISD. The revised proposal was presented, and many questions were answered. In general, the committee was very pleased with the changes, but most members were still upset with HISD's poor attempts at community outreach. After a lengthy discussion, the committee decided to recommend endorsement of the revised bond proposal. The Board also met yesterday, and we voted unanimously to endorse the HISD Bond Proposal this fall. I will discuss the details of the new bond and the significance of our endorsement in a subsequent post.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ray Hill Hits the Big Screen

Don't miss it!

Film Showing:

Ray Hill's Prison Show

Angelika Cinema, Saturday, Sept. 22, 3 PM

Even if you don't know it, everybody in Houston owes Ray Hill a lot. He has been one our community's most devoted and important activists. He is currently making waves all over America, as the host of our country's only radio show devoted to prisoners and their families.

"Ray Hill's Prison Show" is being shown as part of this year's Q-fest, Houston's annual GLBT film festival.

Read more about Q-fest here.

Read more about Ray Hill here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ENDA Deja Vu

We're all anxiously anticipating a rough fight for ENDA passage in the U.S. Senate this fall. We know too well how overdue this law is, but, for the first time in many, many years, we have a real shot at getting it passed. Democrats hold majorities in both houses of Congress, and the leaders of that party seem to have shed all apprehensions regarding GLBT worker rights. Let's not get our hopes up though. We've been here before.

In 1996 ENDA failed Senate passage by the slimmest margin. Amazingly ten years ago, even more than today, employment nondiscrimination looked like a done deal. President Bill Clinton had pledged to sign ENDA into law, and Representative Barney Frank lead and won an up hill battle for passage in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Just as today, the slightest majority possible had pledged support in the Senate, and Vice President Al Gore was excited to leave the campaign trail in order to cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate. It's amazing that the same Congress that passed the Defense of Marriage Act was poised to pass ENDA also. Interestingly, that was part of the strategy. Barney Frank explained it this way:

"DOMA served as a stop-loss order for members of the Senate," says Frank. "In the past they always feared that if they voted for gay rights they would be accused of supporting a much broader gay agenda. When they voted for DOMA and ENDA, they could go home and say, `Don't tell me I voted for the gay rights agenda. I voted to ban gay marriage.' Members don't have this kind of cover this year."
Everything was in place, but something terrible happened. Arkansas Senator David Pryor was planning to support the Kennedy sponsored ENDA bill, but he was called back to Little Rock. His son, Mark Pryor, the current junior Senator from Arkansas, was undergoing an emergency operation just as the debate and vote commenced in Washington. From USA today:

A surgeon operating on a torn tendon discovered sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that is usually fatal. Pryor underwent 13 hours of surgery to have his tendon replaced in 1996. It was 15 months before he was able to walk again unassisted.

Fast forward ten years, and things seem eerily similar. Our country has made significant progress though. In 1996, general election exit polling showed that a slim majority of Americans agreed that GLBT workers should be protected from discrimination. Today, tolerance for GLBT has grown. Even Congressional Republicans fear being labeled a bigot. As their constituents have witnessed corruption, a failed foreign policy, and economic instability, regressive social policies seem trite and unimportant when compared to the many challenges our country now faces.

Here is an interesting article that fleshes out all of the details of ENDA fight in the late '90s.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ENDA Watch

The A.P. reports:

Gay rights advocates are optimistic Congress will soon move one step closer to approving a federal ban on job discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

Representative Barney Frank and other knowledgeable observers feel confident that the bill will pass the house, but no one is sure about the senate. It could go either way there, and there has been no word from the president as to whether he would sign the law if passed.

Of course, this is why national politics is relevant to us. Texas is one of those states that tolerates unfairness and discrimination. Houston, pathetically, stands alone, as the only major U.S. city without a non-discrimination ordinance. ENDA would immediately change that. Every democratic presidential candidate has voiced there support for ENDA. We must get one these people elected next year. More importantly, we must defeat Senator John Cornyn. Two candidates are running against him. The Caucus knows Rick Noriega, and we know he'll stand with us. I'm sure Mikal Watts would also be far better than Cornyn on GLBT issues. So look into these fellows, and get behind one them. let's destroy Cornyn next fall.

Equality Texas has accumulated some key stats on how the rest of Texas delegation breaks down on this issue.

In 31 states, it is legal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation. In 39 states, it is legal to fire someone based on gender identity.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would make it illegal to fire an employee based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA would reinforce the principle that employment decisions should be based upon a person's qualifications and job performance.

The bill currently has 165 co-sponsors, including seven (7) of the thirty-two (32) members of the Texas Congressional delegation: Lloyd Doggett, Charlie Gonzalez, Ruben Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Silvestre Reyes, and Ciro Rodriguez.

A vote on ENDA is expected in the U.S. House the week of September 24th.

A vote for ENDA is a vote for non-discrimination in the workplace. Quite simply, refusing to support ENDA is an endorsement of employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

Public support for ENDA is overwhelming. Polls demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans support the principle of equal job opportunities for lesbian & gay Americans (89% in a May 2007 Gallup Poll).

Twenty-five (25) Texas Representatives have yet to take a stand for equality. What are they waiting for?

Visit Equality Texas to easily contact your representative in Congress. Let the know that fairness has waited far too long.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Texas Netroots

At our last general meeting the Caucus was extremely lucky to hear a presentation from Charles Kuffner, the true dean of Texas political blogging. Netroots organizing is revolutionizing progressive, political activism. Its changing the way candidates and groups campaign, fund raise, and research.

For example, I'm excited to report that U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega, a proud caucus candidate, representing South Houston in the Texas house, has raised over $72,000 on the internet since his announcement. The most interesting thing about Noriega's fund raising is that it has been fueled primarily by independent, progressive bloggers, not officially connected to the campaign. This phenomenon has allowed Noriega to accumulate over 800 small donors from all over the state, demonstrating an intense grassroots appeal that will serve him well in the coming primary election.

The Texas netroots has become a undeniably powerful force, so I'd like our Caucus to get better connected to all the excellent voices out there in the blogosphere. The Caucus Blog is a new member of the Texas Progressive Blog Alliance, and starting today, every Monday I'll post a round-up of excellent posts from all the alliance blogs in Texas.

So...It's Monday, and that means it's time for another Texas Progressive
Alliance Blog Round-Up. This week's round up is compiled by Vince from
Capitol Annex. As the TPA
welcomed aboard a few new members this week, you may notice some new names
and blogs.

Muse at Musings liveblogs Lap
Dog Cornyn’s portion of Petraeus’ appearance before the Senate Armed
Services Committee
this past week and notes that he slobbers all over
himself praising the surge.

McBlogger at McBlogger goes to the CAMPO meeting on the Phase 2 toll
roads and finds lies,
damn lies and statistics as well as an Austin City Council Member who
seems hell bent on ending his political career
. Is resurrection
possible? Sure... if you believe McCracken is the second coming. Spoiler
alert: McBlogger doesn't.

While on vacation, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs discovered
quite a few similarities
between the Texas Legislature and the
Nevada State Assembly.

Good news brought by TXsharon at
Bluedaze: Bush
Economy Solves Obesity Problem

Could Be True at South Texas Chisme notes that
the Republican
tactics of purging voter rolls, creating barriers to voting, and
discouraging new voter registration are moving right along
and could get
serious in Bexar County.

After the demolition of yet another historic structure in Houston,
Charles at Off
the Kuff
looks at what can be
to abet preservation efforts going forward.

Adam Silva of Three Wise Men, blogging
for the UNT
, provides a detailed
analysis of competitive U.S. Senate races
for 2008.

City life can be complicated-but it includes an awfully lot of
conveniences that we take utterly for granted-as long as they work. In Houston, We Have a
, on Texas
, The Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE)
invites all of us to get a little taste, so to speak, of what it takes to
keep the fourth largest city in the nation running.

WhosPlayin notes that some Republican Members of Congress
don't know when to stop digging a hole
in continuing to support a
failed president.

Since 9/11, an increasingly strident message of xenophobia has seeped
into both fringe and mainstream political movements. A new climate of
exclusion has formed as a result of this country's heightened anxiety
against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Whether or not intended
as such, new Texas Progressive Alliance member Xicno
at ¡Para
Justicia y Libertad!
tells us we
are in the midst of a growing culture of hate as the number of hate
crimes in this country are on the rise

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on
the unintended consequences of the 2003 GOP redistricting scheme in Are Democrats Statewide
Prospects Improving Because Of GOP Gerrymandering?

Refinish69, another recent addition to the TPA, at
Doing My Part for the
examines sex
scandals and hypocrites in the Repugnant Party and Texas Stonewall

Republicans moved in a "ringer" to challenge Chet Edwards in TX-CD
? Vince addresses that in a post at Capitol Annex.

The Texas
Clover Leaf
(a new member of the Alliance) notes that Alan
Keyes has entered the GOP race for President, but asks if he is actually
the Republican's version of Obama

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal
tells us about the
controversy surrounding the preservation of trees at the Trinity Trail
in Ft. Worth

John at Bay Area Houston
tells us that Jared Woodfill, Chairman of he Harris County Republican
Party, must
think Hispanics are stupid
with his recent op-ed in the Houston
Chronicle "Hispanics can feel right at home in the Texas GOP".

Jack Cluth at The People's Republic of
notes that it would seem that we've learned nothing from the 60s.
Today, in allegedly-enlightened 21st century America, a man or woman
can be fired from their job in 31 states for the simple fact of being a
homosexual. Regardless of how you feel about the "lifestyle", how can anyone who
values liberty and freedom be OK with this...especially with Americans
dying in Iraq to "protect and defend out freedom"?

Jaye at Winding Road in Urban
addresses several things, including machine-gun-toting
cops in a 'brain dump,' post, The Stream
of Consciousness Just Overflowed the Toilet
. (Please flush!)

Todd Hill (another new addition to the Texas
Progressive Alliance) blogging at Burnt Orange Report
tells us all about a North Texas
Tribute to Speaker Jim Wright

Matt at Stop Cornyn tells us how John
Cornyn worked to disenfranchise minority voters while he was Attorney

Don't forget to check out other Texas Progressive Alliance blogs, too:
BlueBloggin (new member!), The Agonist, Blue 19th (new member!), In The Pink Texas, Grassroots News U Can Use (new
member!), The Caucus Blog (new
member!), The Texas Blue (new
member!), Casual Soap
, Common Sense, Dos Centavos, Easter Lemming Liberal News, Feet To Fire, Marc’s Miscellany, Rhetoric & Rhythm, Three Wise Men, Truth Serum Blog, and Wyld Card.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Discussing the HISD Bond

Our community has been engaging in a serious discussion about the HISD bond proposal that will be on this November's ballot. Tonight the committee charged with investigating the proposal will meet and hear presentations from State Rep. Sylvester Turner and representatives from HISD.

I've tried to prompt some discussion here on our blog. How will our endorsement affect the bond's chance of passage? How did the district come to its decisions on proposed school closures and consolidations? What do GLBT parents and teachers think?

Here are links to all bond related posts:


HISD Bond: "It's really Two Questions"

HISD Bond: A Classroom Perspective

The blog has hosted some excellent discussion. Including this perspective from a veteran teacher:

My concern as a teacher for HISD is that we as a society are accepting less and less from our children and calling it good enough. With the creation of NCLB we ensured no child would be left behind. What does that mean for our gifted children? They are kept with the group as well. Hopefully great teachers can pull the slower children along to try to keep up with the brighter ones. In doing so, our teacher resources, money and time go to the farthest behind. HISD has eliminated the TIER system for finding our brightest kids and putting them together on a very fast paced course. Now they are only the top quarter and they are being mixed with all the others, so no one will feel bad of course. I think the bond that will support a system of dumbing down our society is not the best plan. However, this is a national plan, not just Houston . Where do we start to complain, though? All good work is grass roots at heart. Would I love to work in a state of the art school with all the wonderful perks? Of course. Do I ultimately approve of the way the district spends my money? No, not really. I do not think that will change if the bill is defeated. Administration will go right ahead the way it has been. So, I have mixed feelings and thoughts on the plan.

Here's the point of view of a younger teacher, working on a large campus simular to those consolidated schools being proposed in the bond issue:

I’ve only taught for one year, and I certainly don’t have all (or many) answers. I haven’t thoroughly researched the bond issue yet (I plan to and then post more), but I have some small insights from my past year of teaching. I teach at a large school, similar to the size of the new consolidated campuses in the bond proposal – Tinsley has around 700 students in the first through fifth grades. It’s also a Title 1 school – about 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch and about 70 – 80% of the students are considered at-risk. The school was only opened about 6 years ago, so the facillities are almost brand-new.

The facillities are incredible, but, as I learned last year, what is really important at any school is the faculty and staff. First, teachers and administrators must believe in and be committed to student success – this is the most important thing, and everything else builds off of this. Second, teachers and administrators must have a plan for student success. This plan includes academic standards, student conduct expectations, teacher expectations… teachers and administrators should even know how they want the students to look in the hall or in the cafeteria. Third, teachers and administrators must be consistent in following their plan and get the students and parents to buy into it.

Now, how does this all relate to the HISD bond issue? In my minimal reading about it, I can already tell that it’s not going to solve all of the problems with HISD. All of my kids suddenly becoming really wealthy and being able to afford tutors and trips to Europe would probably solve the problems with HISD, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, my kids have to rely on the efforts of an underpaid, overworked HISD staff.

Here's how Caucus board member and U.H. professor Maria Gonzalez felt after hearing discussions among caucus members:

I do not invest in any conception of efficiency for education. Education is a labor intensive product, historically reserved for the elite few because nations understood it as a scarce commodity. We in this country are conducting a great experiment in attempting universal education. My answer has always been the same—more teachers, less students in classes. It is not efficient, easy, or cheap, but it is the best way to almost guarantee an educated populace.

finally, I think we should all consider the politics behind this position. Our Caucus may very well singularly decide the fate of this bond. The Caucus has a unique chance to demonstrate that the GLBT community is invested in healthy Houston schools. Even though judges in Harris county discriminate against our families; even though our own city is slow to recognize and protect our families; The GLBT community wants the best for Houston schools. If we help the district pass this bond proposal, our community will more gain a seat at the table. We'll gain leverage in the discussion on how best to refine the current plan, and we'll be better positioned to lobby the district on behalf of GLBT children in the future.

A Majority of Americans Support ENDA

Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs have just released poll results showing that 67% of Americans support the passage of ENDA in the U.S. Congress. This is great, as it indicates that not supporting the bill would be a political liability for many members of Congress who have been cautious on this issue in the past.

Beyond this though, the study uncovered several other interesting trends that point to incredible progress in our fight for equal rights:

The study does not indicate that discrimination no longer exists though. 51% of gay workers cited incidents of harassment at work. In recent reports, The William's Institute has also detailed the prevalence of workplace discrimination.

You can find a more thorough discussion of the poll results here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

GLBTube #10

Candidates on GLBT Rights: Then and Now

This is the second installment of a short series on each of the presidential candidates. The first episode was on Barack Obama. Today's is on Mitt Romney.

The New York Times had an interesting profile on Romney's political evolution. Click on the graphic below to read some of Romney's quotes. Perhaps most interesting is that Romney once promised to not campaign against marriage equality. Now, in an effort to burnish his conservative credentials, he speaks against marriage equality more than any other candidate.



It seems that Romney's unfortunate conversion to dark side is just as troubling to many conservatives as it is to us.

Friday, September 07, 2007

HISD Bond: A Classroom Perspective

Hi! My name is Laura, and I’m a long-time volunteer for HERA and the caucus. I just started my second year of teaching at Tinsley Elementary. I teach through the Teach for America program. Evan and I go way back, and he asked me to contribute to the blog on the HISD Bond Issue

At the caucus meeting on Wednesday night, I was impressed by the dedication everyone who spoke expressed to the education of all students. The mission of Teach for America is that, one day, all children in this country will receive an excellent education. Unfortunately, we know that excellent education for all is not currently a reality. Wednesday night, as at every TFA meeting and my school staff meetings, I heard people asking what we can do to get closer to that goal.

I’ve only taught for one year, and I certainly don’t have all (or many) answers. I haven’t thoroughly researched the bond issue yet (I plan to and then post more), but I have some small insights from my past year of teaching. I teach at a large school, similar to the size of the new consolidated campuses in the bond proposal – Tinsley has around 700 students in the first through fifth grades. It’s also a Title 1 school – about 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch and about 70 – 80% of the students are considered at-risk. The school was only opened about 6 years ago, so the facillities are almost brand-new.

The facillities are incredible, but, as I learned last year, what is really important at any school is the faculty and staff. First, teachers and administrators must believe in and be committed to student success – this is the most important thing, and everything else builds off of this. Second, teachers and administrators must have a plan for student success. This plan includes academic standards, student conduct expectations, teacher expectations… teachers and administrators should even know how they want the students to look in the hall or in the cafeteria. Third, teachers and administrators must be consistent in following their plan and get the students and parents to buy into it.

Now, how does this all relate to the HISD bond issue? In my minimal reading about it, I can already tell that it’s not going to solve all of the problems with HISD. All of my kids suddenly becoming really wealthy and being able to afford tutors and trips to Europe would probably solve the problems with HISD, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, my kids have to rely on the efforts of an underpaid, overworked HISD staff.

I’m sure that it will be hard for the teachers at Sherman, Crawford, and the other schools slated for closure to leave those schools. However, after a new staff is firmly in place at the new locations, I am sure that these new schools will be successful provided that they have a great principal and good teachers. I also expect that these new schools will be better than the schools they replace. Last year, I had several friends who were transferred to different schools because the enrollment count went down. Each HISD school has different rules and a different culture – it took me almost half of the year to learn some of the ins and outs of the school and to feel comfortable there. Also, teachers can’t really go into their classrooms and lock everything else out anymore – if they ever could. Whether you like the TAKS tests or don’t, they are a reality. Teachers are required to teach the same standards and therefore must collaborate and build off one another. Additionally, middle and high school teachers, and many elementary teachers (including me), teach a couple of subjects and see many classes of students. I have to communicate closely with my team in order to know how all of my students are doing – Jesus’ reading obviously affects his needs in science, social studies, and even math. For all of those reasons, I really think that keeping the same administration and staff at a school is really important.

I don’t really like the idea of schools closing – I am worried about the ensuing chaos in building new schools and hiring new administration and faculty. I am worried about building new school communities because I know from my own experience that parents and students trust teachers and administrators whom they’ve seen and known for years. I am worried about students having to commute any further from their homes because I know that many of my students walk home. However, because I believe that the most important parts of a school are the people inside of it, I know that these new schools can be better than the old ones. I also hope that their construction will save funds that my kids desperately need.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yay! Boos!

Amazing! Senator Sam Brownback was booed by a Republican audience for supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage! If that's not progress, I don't know what is.

Live free or Die!

HISD Bond: "It's Really Two Questions"

"It seems to me that it's really two questions. Do we want to approve the bond issue and get more money to the schools? Do we trust that the money will be well spent?"

That's how caucus board member Lorna Clark perfectly summed things up late into the debate last night. Everyone at the caucus seems to agree that Houston schools need more money and better facilities, but there are serious complaints and questions about the choices of school closures and consolidations. Was history and academic performance considered in the choice to close or consolidate a campus? Why were some small schools spared when others have been designated for closure? State Representative Sylvester Turner, Council Member Peter Brown and City Controller Annisse Parker all criticized the HISD board for choosing a plan that replaces small neighborhood elementary and middle schools with large consolidated campuses. HISD trustee Natasha Kamrani argued that reorganized, consolidated schools would allow the district to funnel more resources directly to the students, reiterating the fact that many campuses have dwindling enrollment. A teacher also expressed a great need for more secure campuses and newer facilities. Parents offered there own personal accounts.

So here are the schools that will be consolidated (click on links for maps):

The HISD board has been criticized for not taking in enough community feedback in their decisions. In fact, the board itself provided little to no input into the final plan for the bond proposal. After a $395 million bond referendum failed in 1996, HISD contracted an outside consulting firm, Magellan K-12, to assess and recommend new projects to update and maintain the district. Magellan produced a three phase plan, of which this year's bond proposal represents the last installment. Magellan developed the criteria, and Magellan recommended schools for closure and consolidation. The HISD Board signed onto the plan.

So how did Magellan assess the schools?

First, according to Magellan's website, they pursued an intense community outreach effort:
During this period, a community outreach program was put in place to communicate the progress of the assessment, along with the results. Great emphasis was placed on community participation and involvement, and questionnaires were sent to every principal and 11,000 teachers to solicit input regarding their educational facilities.
Of course, this initial assessment and outreach effort was completed in 1999, when Magellan was first contracted. The district has been implementing the three phase plan ever since, and now they're ready to put forward the last stage. No wonder people don't feel that they've been consulted. Maybe an outreach effort was thoroughly pursued, but that was eight years ago. Every school in the district has cycled through student populations two or three times since that initial effort. In eight years new families have entered the district, and those families initially consulted have long since seen their children move on or graduate. Even if the district initially sought out community input, it was done so long ago that many people are unaware that it ever took place.

Second, Magellan assessed the various facilities of the district. Magellan performs these sorts of assessments all over the country, including Districts in Corpus Cristi, El Paso and Tyler, Texas. They approach this task with a rubric they call the APPLE standard:

Assessment standards are detailed parameters used to inventory and assess educational facilities. These are different from Educational Specifications in that they typically cover a wide range of facility types and address a minimum expectation for the overall design of the school as well as specific requirements at the classroom level.
  1. Magellan K12 establishes assessment standards, and then conducts a survey to inventory all of the existing conditions throughout a school. The Magellan APPLE (Assessment Program for Performance Learning Environments) Standards contain eight major categories:
  2. Capacity: Ability of core facilities to meet needs of the student population. Core facilities may include restrooms and toilets, dining facilities, libraries and administrative areas. Capacity issues also address site utilization. It is critical to consider the programs at a particular campus and the impact these programs have on classroom inventory and student teaching stations. It is also important to evaluate the use of permanent versus temporary structures.
  3. Support for Programs: Provision of special spaces or classrooms that support specific curriculum offerings such as music, sports, science, technology, and gifted and talented programs. Support for programs may also include enclosed play areas or multi-purpose spaces that enhance school flexibility.
  4. Technology: Presence of infrastructure, data distribution/storage and equipment within classroom and laboratory settings. This typically does not include provision of actual computers in the classroom, but does address the ability to support emerging technology. This might include local area network cabling, video distribution systems, electrical outlets, and projection or video display screens.
  5. Supervision and Security: Extent to which physical configurations help or hinder building operation. This includes site buffers, security fencing, sight lines, lighting and obstructions in instructional spaces that make supervision difficult or impossible.
  6. Instructional Aids: Presence of necessary equipment within teaching spaces including teacher storage, student storage, writing and tack surfaces, sinks, demonstration tables and fixed audio/video equipment. Instructional aids might also address surface heights, counter heights and types of writing surfaces.
  7. Physical Characteristics: Primarily size and shape of individual teaching spaces. The total area and aspect ratio, derived by dividing the shortest side of a classroom by the longest side, impact the adequacy of a teaching space. Ceiling heights might also be a consideration. Unfortunately, these criteria are cost prohibitive to remedy in most circumstances.
  8. Learning Environment: Degree to which learning areas are comfortable, well lighted, odor free, controllable and quiet.
  9. Relationship of Spaces: Proximity of instructional spaces to support areas like libraries, restrooms, and student dining and recreational areas. It is generally thought that dining and recreation areas should be offset or remote to reduce distraction, while learning resource centers and libraries should be centrally located close to the school's core.

Many Caucus members worried that historic school buildings would be shut down. Representative Turner wondered why schools that performed well on state tests were slated for consolidation. Looking over Magellan's APPLE standard, it is clear that history and academic performance are not considered in their assessment of a building. It is indeed an assessment of the facility only: whether the building can suitably support the programs that the school has in place; whether the building's space is being used efficiently; whether there's a fair ratio of students to space. Magellan, for better or worse, was objectively examining infrastructure only. Magellan's philosophy seems to be that innovation and efficiency trumps history, which may, in fact, be true. If a historic building is failing students and teachers, then a legacy is meaningless. On the other hand, schools are often the hearts of neighborhoods, and regardless of shortcomings, their loss may be too high a cost.

More to come...

What are your thoughts?

Also, HISD is holding their last town hall to discuss the bond proposal tonight. More information here.


Something very significant happened at last night's general meeting. The Caucus membership had a healthy, thorough debate on whether to endorse the proposed HISD bond issue. The Caucus has rarely expressed official preferences on such things, but, amazingly, given the growing influence of the Caucus, our endorsement decision may just forecast the fate of the bond proposal on election day.

Yes, the GLBT community may in fact have the unusual burden of deciding this issue for the rest of the city. It's a strange situation, but Houston's GLBT community votes as a block, and our endorsement card is the singular guide for GLBT voters in Houston. Our card not only prescribes, it predicts the votes of thousands of Houstonians . There are few high profile races in this year's nonpartisan city election, and turn out will be low, so our community of habitual voters may have unmatched clout.

Advocates, both for and against the proposal, recognizing the impact our endorsement, showed up to make their cases last night. State Representative Sylvester Turner, who hasn't visited the Caucus since he ran for mayor, made a surprising appearance just to speak passionately against the proposal. HISD trustee Natasha Kamrani defended the proposal, pleading for much needed dollars and pledging to reach out to the community for more input. Controller Parker and Council Members Lovell and Brown also voiced their opinions. GLBT teachers and parents also spoke up. In the end, it was a really amazing demonstration of just how knowledgeable and curious our community is.

Debate was heated. Complex questions were raised, and after nearly an hour of discussion, wisely, the Caucus took a humble approach last night, deciding to postpone the endorsement and charge a special committee to further investigate the details of the bond proposal.

So...we're taking some time, because we all see that we must be careful on this consequential decision. I'm going to do my best to post a lot of information here, so that we can get a balanced perspective.

Later today I'll post the first of probably several posts looking into this question.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hypocrites on Tape

The crimes they've committed are bad enough, but their defense is disgusting.

Here's a nice clip from Talking Points Memo: