Horns Down for April 2


Horns Down: Texas won’t meet federal PREA standards

On March 28, in a letter to federal officials, Gov. Rick Perry said that he would not certify Texas’ 297 state prisons and local jails to comply with the newly completed Prison Rape Elimination Act Standards. Perry called the standards, which are meant to reduce the instances of rape in correctional facilities, “impossible” to meet, citing operational and budgetary constraints. Perry took particular issue with the standards’ requirement that prisoners be supervised only by guards of the same gender when in private settings such as showers and restrooms, arguing that Texas’ male correctional facilities already have too many female correctional officers working in these facilities for Texas to feasibly meet the same-gender supervision standard. Perry is right that this standard would be difficult to meet by the May 1 deadline and that, as he also claimed, Texas has made great strides in putting in place anti-rape measures in Texas prisons. However, one consequence of those efforts is that most facilities in Texas are already almost completely in compliance with PREA standards. Given that the state would only have to meet the same-gender supervision requirement and a few others to be in complete compliance with standards, Perry should have found the funds and aimed to more completely protect prisoners at risk of rape. Horns down to Perry’s decision to resist PREA standards instead of helping Texas’ correctional facilities rise to meet them. 

Horns Down: Texas needs to invest more in education

Last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that Texas has moved up slightly in the ranking for per-pupil spending after the legislature added funding last year. A comparison by the National Education Association shows that Texas spends an average of $8,998 per student per school year, putting the state in 46th place, out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a bump from last year when Texas ranked 49th. Average teacher salary also increased slightly to $49,270, $450 more than last year. Although at first this may seem to be a cause to celebrate, considering the difficulty in securing education funding in our state, it’s best to take a pause before we call it a victory. Texas still ranks way below the national average of $11,674 per student per year, and the average teacher salary of $56,689. Though we’re investing more in our children than the year before, we could still be doing better on the national level. 

Horns Down: Abbott cites racist source in pre-K plan 

On Monday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott unveiled the first of his education policy proposals, in which he outlined his plan to tie pre-K funding to academic performance standards. In that proposal, disturbingly, was a reference to the work of Charles Murray, a “white nationalist” who uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Abbott’s plan cites Murray’s work as evidence that “family background has the most decisive effect on student achievement.” While it is entirely possible that Abbott himself had nothing to do with the choice of citation, as Murray’s work is now a part of Abbott’s education policy, it is Abbot’s responsibility to come forward and repudiate Murray’s racist, sexist views and to find justification for the claim of family background’s effect on student achievement from a less hateful source.