Daily Archives: March 31, 2012

Letter from the ‘Alamo’ of Texas public schools

Thought this was interesting. A public school administrator in Texas penned a letter (last year, but I didn’t see it until now), based on that written by South Carolinian William Barret Travis from the Alamo, describing how he was besieged by ideological “reformers” in his state.

Will anyone ride to his rescue? And if he falls, will there be a San Jacinto?

Here’s his letter:

From: John Kuhn, Superintendent, Perrin-Whitt CISD
To: Senator Estes, Representative Hardcastle, Representative Keffer, and Representative King during these grave times:

I am besieged, by a hundred or more of the Legislators under Rick Perry. I have sustained a continual Bombardment of increased high-stakes testing and accountability-related bureaucracy and a cannonade of gross underfunding for 10 years at least and have lost several good men and women. The ruling party has demanded another round of pay cuts and furloughs, while the school house be put to the sword and our children’s lunch money be taken in order to keep taxes low for big business. I am answering the demand with a (figurative) cannon shot, and the Texas flag still waves proudly from our flag pole. I shall never surrender the fight for the children of Perrin.


Then, I call on you my legislators in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy of public schools is declaring that spending on a shiny new high-stakes testing system is “non-negotiable”; that, in essence, we must save the test but not the teachers. The enemy of public schools is saying that Texas lawmakers won’t raise 1 penny in taxes in order to save our schools.

If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and fight for the kids in these classrooms like an educator who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his community. Make education a priority!

With all due respect and urgency,

John Kuhn
Perrin-Whitt CISD

And here is the Travis letter upon which it is modeled:

Commandancy of the Alamo——

Bejar Fby. 24th 1836

To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world——

Fellow citizens & compatriots——


I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna —– I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man —– The enemy has demanded a Surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken —– I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the wall —– I shall never Surrender or retreat

Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch —– The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country —– Victory or Death

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt
P. S. The lord is on our side- When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn— We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves—


You may also be interested in a speech Kuhn delivered more recently at a recent Save Texas Schools rally in Austin. It concludes:

These and other grievances were patiently borne by the teachers of Texas, until they reached that point at which patience is no longer a virtue. We appealed to our government last spring in this very spot, called upon those in power to encourage and support the teachers who day by day struggle to educate the poorest children in the most neglected corners of our state. Yet they responded to our entreaties with new condemnations of the work we do. Our appeals have been made in vain.

We are forced to the melancholy conclusion that this government favors business interests that want a profit-based education system that would enrich investors, rather than a publicly owned system that enriches our children.

You can keep your for-profit schools. I want a locally elected school board that answers to me, to parents and local taxpayers, not to shareholders. I want a quality public education for ALL Texas children. I want adequate and equitable funding, so that families in every part of Texas can count on the consistent quality of our public school system like we count on the consistent quality of our interstate highway system, because we don’t want to wreck our children any more than we want to wreck our cars.

Texas officials, you build your hateful machine that blames teachers for the failures of politicians; we’ll still be here teaching when your engine of shame is laid upon the scrapheap of history. For now, we’ll bravely take these lashes you give because we know that — no matter what you say — the only crime of the public school teacher in 2012 is his or her willingness to embrace and teach broken children. If that’s a crime, then find us guilty. If caring for the least of these makes us unacceptable, then bring on your label gun. We’re not afraid.

Perhaps I was born too late. I miss speeches like that. This guy’s not afraid of anything, least of all a scrap.

A crucial point that seems to have been forgotten regarding Obamacare

Our friend E. J. Dionne had a column earlier this week accusing the more conservative members of the Supreme Court of implying a wish to usurp the powers of the legislative branch — something more popularly referred to as “judicial activism” — in their comments and questions during the oral arguments on Obamacare:

It fell to the court’s liberals — the so-called “judicial activists,” remember? — to remind their conservative brethren that legislative power is supposed to rest in our government’s elected branches.

Justice Stephen Breyer noted that some of the issues raised by opponents of the law were about “the merits of the bill,” a proper concern of Congress, not the courts. And in arguing for restraint, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked what was wrong with leaving as much discretion as possible “in the hands of the people who should be fixing this, not us.” It was nice to be reminded that we’re a democracy, not a judicial dictatorship.

The conservative justices were obsessed with weird hypotheticals. If the federal government could make you buy health insurance, might it require you to buy broccoli, health club memberships, cellphones, burial services and cars? All of which have nothing to do with an uninsured person getting expensive treatment that others — often taxpayers — have to pay for…

I don’t know whether his inference is correct or not. He seems to be paying closer attention to the arguments than I am, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit on this. Perhaps they are presuming to judge the law on its merits rather than the law. If it were so, it would be a grievous fault — one that you may recall me getting on Sen. Obama’s case about, just before the 2008 election.

In any case, the paragraph in E.J.’s column that appealed most to me was this one:

Liberals should learn from this display that there is no point in catering to today’s hard-line conservatives. The individual mandate was a conservative idea that President Obama adopted to preserve the private market in health insurance rather than move toward a government-financed, single-payer system. What he got back from conservatives was not gratitude but charges of socialism — for adopting their own proposal.

I don’t entirely agreed with the first sentence — it sounds like Bud’s frequent assertions that conservatives are so awful that they should be given no quarter at any time. But the rest of it should be read aloud every day at the start of business in the Congress — and in our Legislature as well, given GOP lawmakers’ penchant for fulminating about the individual mandate rather than concerning themselves with state-level issues.

Yes, boys and girls. The reason there is a mandate to purchase private insurance in this bill is because of all the people on the right who won’t stand for doing the one sensible, rational thing that we should do — create a single-payer system.

Over and over, we hear extremists on the right (and increasingly, extremism has become mainstream among alleged “conservatives”) rant about this. Hey, I’m not crazy about a plan that requires us all to buy private insurance either. But because of opponents on the right, it was the only way we could do the one thing that must be done in any health plan that can be called “reform” — get everyone into the system.

And we all should remember that.