Subject: Fwd: Gail Collins editorial in Sunday's paper
From: "Meghan Ashford-Grooms" <mashford-grooms@statesman.com>
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2011 15:21:30 -0500
To: Meghan Ashford-Grooms <mashford-grooms@statesman.com>

Message -------- Original Message --------
Subject: Gail Collins editorial in Sunday's paper
Resent-From: politifact@statesman.com
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2011 13:47:27 -0600
From: Terral Smith


Message
For the second time in a month, a New York Times  writer has penned a negative and misleading editorial about Texas state government. This is likely a concerted effort by the NYTs to discredit Texas and the idea that a low tax, less regulated,  right to work state  is better off than states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois. The first shot came from Paul Krugman who attempted to show that the Texas state budget was just as bad off as the New York state budget. Krugman selected some numbers and ignored others to make his point. Attempting to prove the impossible, that Texas and New York were facing similar financial circumstances, he failed to mention that the deficit number he used for New York was a a one year number while the deficit number he used for Texas covered two years. He failed to mention that Texas has more people than New York. He failed to mention that Texas has $9.8 billion in a Rainy Day Fund, something New York does not have. If he had taken everything into account in making his comparison, his conclusion that Texas and New York state budgets are similary situated would be laughable.
 
 
Politifact looked at Krugman's column, ignored his selectivity and incredibly pronounced it Mostly True. In its analysis, Politifact talked to someone who mentioned the Texas Rainy Day fund but dismissed it as being unimportant because it would take a 2/3ds vote of the legislature to access it, a totally irrelevant point to the one Krugman was making. 
 
Like the Krugman piece, the recent Gail Collin's editorial is filled with misinformation, half truths and  ommissions that when taken as a whole amount to a lie. 
 
 
Collins begins with Barbara Bush's comment that Texas students ranked 47th in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 49th in math scores. I don't know how much thought Ms. Bush gave to the selectivity and relevancy of those statistics.  I suspect that she was duped by some group with an agenda and used by them for  political purposes.
 
Statistics used to make points on education matters have been  abused to the point that thinking people no longer give them any credence. They can and are used by commentators to bolster whatever they care to propose.. For example, Juan Willims on Fox News Sunday said that Wisconsin had the worst test scores for African Americans in the entire country. If true, how can that be? Teachers there are unionized and well paid. Why can't they teach African Americans better than Texas...or Mississippi? 
 
 
 States are different. Most states don't have the diversity that Texas has and it is unfair to compare them. I read recently that Washington D.C and Mississippi ranked 50th and 51st in federal test rankings (Texas was about in the middle, despite what Barbara Bush and Gail Collins would have you believe). D.C. spends the most money per pupil and Mississippi the least. What does that tell us? Why is it that when Texas suggests that we pay teachers based on performance, teachers yell and scream that it isn't fair to require teachers teaching in  minority communities to produce students like teachers in the suburbs, but those same teachers want to compare test scores in Texas to Kansas or New Hampshire?
 
 
Collins then transitions to Doggett's statement that several schools in his district might close, including one that received a blue ribbon award. That is a true statement on its face but doesn't tell the whole story. Those schools are being targeted because populations have shifted and their enrollment has fallen. Shouldn't we consider building new schools in some areas and consolidating schools in other areas? Are enrollment numbers not important? Suppose the blue ribbon school  only had 50 children attending a facility that could house 300? Can we never close a school? Do we bus students to that school and forget the idea of  neighborhood schools? Are taxpayers to continually see their property taxes go up so that Lloyd Doggett's blue ribbon school will never close? Can't the teachers and principal from that school go elsewhere and turn another school into a blue ribbon school? None of these questions are addressed by Doggett or Collins. No. In their opinion those schools are closing simply because uncaring politicians won't increase taxes, inefficiencies be damned.
 
 
Another misleading "fact" in the column.... Texas ranks number three in teen pregnacies and 1st in repeat teen pregnacies. I have no idea where those numbers come from but without more information, they mean little. Without noting that Texas has a large Hispanic population and Hispanic girls statistically get pregnant earlier than Anglo or Black girls, Collins jumps to the conclusion, without any evidence, that Texas is stupid to have abstinence only sex education because, I suppose, if we taught our students everything about sex, they would discover that rubbers exist and girls could successfully convince their boyfirends to wear them. Based on my experience growing up in a small town and never having recieved a day of sex education, I suspect that our kids are well versed about this even without formal classroom instruction.
 
But the fact that I would like you to review is the issue that Doggett got his panties in a wad over.... Collins says "Perry used $3.2 Billion in stimulus dollars for schools to plug holes in his budget."  Even if that statement is technically correct or half correct, it is a lie, because it doesn't tell the whole story.
 
Here is what I think occurred last session and I ask you to fact check. Congress sent about $3.2 Billion to Texas as part of the stimulus bill and earmarked all or a portion of it for education. After all, Congress was controlled by the Democrats and they are supported by teacher unions and the public education establishment. They likely promised teachers that they would receive pay raises, or more retirement benefits, or more health benefits or better student/teacher ratios or all of these things. But instead of spending 100%  of that money on education, the legislature placed the money into the general revenue fund and used it to fund public education, Medicaid and prisons at current levels (the so-called holes in the budget) without rasing taxes or invading the rainy day fund. Teachers received a large amount of the stimulus money since more than half of the state budget is spent on education. (Highways are funded out of a separate, dedicated fund and thus received none of the stimulus money.)
 
 
The last state budget was a status quo budget. No teachers were laid off, no salaries were reduced, no schools were closed and there were no cuts in Medicaid.  No new programs were were begun and no publicly funded group received significant additional amounts. Taxes were not increased. That was a pretty good outcome but not according to Doggett or Collins. Although teachers received a significant part of the $3.2 Billion and the status quo was maintained, they wanted more. They wanted a pay raise. The legislature could have done that by cutting Medicaid, raising taxes and/or spending Rainy Day fund money. They chose not to.
 
Had they done that, where would be be today now that there is no stimulus money? We would be laying off even more teachers than we are now, reducing their pay, cutting medicaid more than is now contemplated; there would be a smaller or totally depleted Rainy Day fund avalable for this session and pressures to raise taxes would be greater.  We would be like New York. Krugman would now be correct.
 
You may or may not agree with me, but the point is that Krugman, and now Collins use  selective facts in a way that amount to a lie.  As the saying goes, "there are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics." They were no more correct in their columns than Dan Flynn was when he said that Texas schools don't teach the Constitution. The difference is that what Gail Collins and the NYTs says cannot be compared to what state representative Dan Flynn writes in his home town paper. If Politifact is going to act as though those voices and statements are of equal importance then Politifact is irrelevant.
 
 
Terral Smith