EdAlert Vol. 47, Aug 7, 2014 – Dallas Home Rule Process Moves Forward
The Ed Alert is the latest in education news on education in Texas from State Representative Lon Burnam, District 90. To subscribe, please email us. A full archive of past Ed Alerts can be found here.
Many parents, teachers, and community leaders in Dallas have joined together to oppose the home-rule
district charter, expressing concerns that:
- The home-rule initiative was conceived in secret and promoted with funds from outside interests that have not been fully disclosed;
- The home-rule charter could eliminate the democratic election of school board members in favor of an appointed board that is not accountable to voters; and
- A home-rule district can opt out of state laws that promote education quality and guarantee safeguards for students, parents, and teachers.
EdAlert covers these issues and more and provides an update on the current status of the home-rule district charter process. What happens in Dallas will set a precedent that will have an impact on every school district in Texas.
Read the full Ed Alert here.
Ed Alert, July 9, 2014 - Schedules for State Board of Education Meeting and Charter Applicant Presentations to TEA
The Ed Alert is the latest in education news on education in Texas from State Representative Lon Burnam, District 90. To subscribe, please email us here. A full archive of past Ed Alerts can be found here.
Two important education meetings are scheduled in July, and both can be watched online. Even if you’ve never attended a State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting or listened to charter applicant presentations to TEA, consider taking a couple of hours to tune in. These meetings are often not on our radar screen, yet critical issues will be discussed and decisions made about public schools in Texas. Public testimony is only allowed at the SBOE meetings, but all meetings are open to the public. See the meeting schedule below that highlights agenda items of special interest.
Likely to be discussed at the SBOE meeting: The Commissioner’s waiver to allow Great Hearts Academies to open new charter schools in Dallas and Irving despite the SBOE veto of the Great Hearts application in November 2013.
Read the full Ed Alert here.
On June 5th, my legal team submitted paperwork to end my challenge to the primary election results for House District 90.
I did not make this decision because I believe this was a clean election with a legal result. Indeed, our investigations revealed far more unlawful activity than I initially suspected.
However, I am forced into this decision by the denial of our final appeal for a subpoena to see county vote-by-mail records, making it currently impossible to prove that a sufficient number of ballots were cast to overturn the initial results. These records will become public after the general election in November, and I plan to revisit the issue at that time.
I do want to make one thing clear: The issues in my election challenge lay with vote-by-mail ballots, not with in-person voter impersonation. Such impersonation is a non-existent problem and the voter ID “solution” – requiring picture IDs for all voters regardless of their ability or difficulty in obtaining such identification – disenfranchises poor and minority voters, and does it by design. Voter ID is not at all relevant to my case and any assertions to the contrary are either deceitful or confused.
I would like to thank everyone who stood by me in this struggle. And I want to assure you that – regardless of whether I am in office or not – I will continue working for the people of Texas and against the special economic interests seeking to victimize them.
P.S. The Fort Worth Weekly ran a nice retrospective on my service as a state representative on June 4th. It’s worth a read.
In a ruling that could portend good news for us in Texas, a federal judge Tuesdaystruck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law. A state judge had similarly struck the same law down, but because this ruling was in a federal court and the ruling said it conflicted with a federal law (the Voting Rights Act), the same logic could be used to strike down the Texas Voter ID law.
There are several reasons why this ruling is very significant:
- The judge noted that requiring voter ID accomplishes virtually nothing to “protect the vote”, which weakens the law’s protection from discrimination challenges.
“Because virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future, this particular state interest has very little weight,” the judge wrote. “The defendants could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past.”
- The judge noted that because more minorities than white people currently lack ID, the effect of the law is necessarily racially discriminatory.
“However, I also note that, given the evidence presented at trial showing that blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to lack an ID, it is difficult to see how an amendment to the photo ID requirement could remove its disproportionate racial impact and discriminatory result,” he wrote.
- The judge noted that because obtaining ID imposes a burden on the disproportionately non-white population who lack them, it creates a racial barrier to voting.
Under the voter ID law, minorities “must pay the cost, in the form of time or bother or out-of-pocket expense, to obtain what is essentially a license to vote,” he wrote.
- The judge found that modest measures to make IDs easier to obtain did not overcome the barriers to voting the law created. According to Governing Magazine, Vos said Republicans had tried to accommodate critics by allowing people to get free state-issued IDs. But Adelman found too many barriers remained for those who didn’t have IDs; for instance, under the voter ID law people still have to pay a fee to get copies of their birth certificates, which are necessary for the free IDs. The Perry administration has tried to make similar accommodations.
- The judge said that the barriers to voting the law establishes are greater than any protections it offers.
“There is no way to determine exactly how many people Act 23 will prevent or deter from voting without considering the individual circumstances of each of the 300,000 plus citizens who lack an ID,” Judge Lynn Adelman wrote. “But no matter how imprecise my estimate may be, it is absolutely clear that Act 23 will prevent more legitimate votes from being cast than fraudulent votes.”
- The judge issued an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced in November.
This is very important because appeals and changes to the law could drag on forever. It means our people could vote right away.
The federal trial for Texas’ voter ID law is under way right now, and this ruling indicates that our law could be found to violate the Voting Rights Act, too. We cannot know for sure how the trial for the Texas voter ID law will go, but this is a very good sign.
One important point to remember: Supporters of the Texas voter ID law say that because the Indiana voter ID law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas law will be, too. But there are two big differences: 1) The Indiana law had many ways to get around the law for voters who lacked ID that the Texas law does not have; and 2) Indiana was not covered by the Voting Rights Act the way Texas is due to our long history of discrimination.
Finally, I want to state very clearly that my lawsuit over the District 90 Democratic primary election has NOTHING to do with voter ID. Voter impersonation has never been a problem in Texas, so voter ID addressed a non-existent issue. My lawsuit centers on absentee mail-in ballots, which have nothing to do with voter ID. So I’ll say this again: anyone who says that my case has anything to do with voter ID is either profoundly dishonest or profoundly confused about election law.
For more information, see this article in Governing magazine.
Today I filed a lawsuit in state court to examine this month’s Democratic primary election for Texas House District 90 to determine if there were hundreds of illegally cast ballots. I believe I have no choice after receiving multiple reports of an illegal computerized-signature vote-by-mail operation run to benefit my opponent. This operation appears to have clearly violated state law.
Of the 5,078 total votes cast in this race, 951 were absentee mail-in ballots, which is more than enough to have been a deciding factor in the 110-vote margin of victory.
I have received reports from voters in the district who say they were approached at their door by campaign workers of unclear affiliation who asked them to fill out a vote-by-mail application on an electronic tablet device such as an iPad.
Texas law clearly does not allow the practice of filling out vote-by-mail ballot applications electronically, which the Texas Secretary of State’s has confirmed. Other questionable practices about this operation aside, this renders the entire operation illegal.
My lawsuit seeks to obtain, through court orders, documents from the County Clerk’s office and from those involved in this operation so we can obtain all of the relevant facts. I believe that these documents and other testimony will establish beyond question that the computerized-signature operation was illegal and that I won the election.
Part of my goal with this lawsuit is to root out these illegal operations before they become entrenched. Everyone, candidates and consultants, must play by the rules. Otherwise, they make a sham of the democratic process, and I cannot and will not accept that.
I want to emphasize that what is at issue here is not in any way related to the new Voter ID law. As I have long maintained, any real potential for fraud in our elections lies in absentee vote-by-mail ballots, NOT in-person voting.
See the lawsuit here.
Read coverage in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Burnt Orange Report.
Today I filed comments opposing the Perry administration’s proposed regulations for Affordable Care Act “Navigators”. Here in Fort Worth that mostly means the good people at the United Way of Tarrant County. These burdensome regulations would require that Navigators complete an additional 40 hours of unnecessary state training on top of the 20-30 hours of federal training they already receive. This “training” is estimated to cost as much as $800 per person, which will be billed to the non-profit organizations.
One of my responsibilities as a legislator is to act as a watchdog on the Perry administration, so I regularly file open records requests to expose wrong-doing or just plain wrong decisions by state agencies. In a recent request, I uncovered secret Perry administration documents that show that these training requirements – the toughest in the nation – were the result of political influence by certain prominent state officials, not a desire to actually provide good training!
The Perry administration is refusing to let me release these documents, but I will continue to fight back until the truth can be revealed. I’ve already spoken out against these regulations in the Star-Telegram, and now I have put them on notice that if they try to move forward with the regulations, the documents I uncovered could be used in a lawsuit to stop them.
Here in Fort Worth, I have already conducted 10 community forums to help people understand how to access affordable health care. We have just organized 3 more workshops in the coming weeks to be conducted in both English and Spanish. Please join us if you or someone you care about is currently uninsured. Even if you don’t qualify for subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act, we will have people from local non-profits there who can help you find the health care you need.
Upcoming Affordable Care Act Workshops
- Saturday, January 18th, 9:00AM to noon, Poly High School, 1300 Conner Ave. In English and Spanish.
- Saturday, February 1st, 9:30AM, Los Pastores Restaurant, 3812 E. Rosedale St. In Spanish.
- Wednesday, February 5th, 5:30PM (Spanish) and 7:00PM (English), 1100 N.W. 18th St.
My office can also help you schedule a one-on-one session with a health insurance expert to sign up for an Affordable Care Act insurance policy, Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Call us at 817-924-1997.
- Learn About Coverage and How to Sign up at Upcoming Burnam Obamacare Events
The website problems are being fixed and you can now sign up for Obamacare if you do not currently have insurance. I will continue hold these workshops as part of my commitment to getting the people of District 90 healthcare.
- Saturday, Dec. 14th, 9:30AM (Primarily in Spanish)
Los Pastores Restaurant located at 3822 E. Rosedale St.
- Monday, Dec. 16th, 5:30 PM (Primarily in Spanish)
Sycamore Community Center located at 2525 E. Rosedale St.
- Monday, Dec. 16th, 7:00 PM (Primarily in English)
Also at Sycamore Community Center
Tuesday, November 5th is the LAST DAY to vote for the Fort Worth school bonds, which would bring universal pre-K to our city. Voting runs from 7AM to 7PM and you can find your polling place here or by calling Tarrant County Elections at 817-831-8683.
The most important thing you can do to support our schools this year is to vote “YES” in the school bond election. These propositions will fail if our community does not turn out to support our schools and SUPPORT OUR 80,000 students! They need your help so please join us in voting YES for the Fort Worth school bonds.
- Rep. Lon Burnam and FWISD Trustee Jacinto Ramos
PROPOSITION 1: $386.6 million for
- universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year olds
- additional classrooms for our growing schools
- improvements to older schools including kitchens, security & technology.
PROPOSITION 2: $73.3 million for
- two schools serving grades 6-12
- a fine arts academy
- a STEM academy (science, technology, engineering & math).
PROPOSITION 3: $30 million for
- projects like repairing and replacing buses and instruments for school bands.
Rep. Lon Burnam, Congressman Marc Veasey, County Commissioner Roy Brooks and Fort Worth schools trustee Jacinto Ramos will be holding the first in a series of workshops in neighborhoods around Fort Worth to help people enroll in Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) insurance plans as well as finding other healthcare resources.
Anyone with healthcare needs should attend, especially anyone who does not have employer-sponsored health insurance and has an income under $94,200 (for a family of four) or $45,960 (for an individual), as you may be eligible for financial assistance in purchasing health insurance.
Because about one million Texans make too much to qualify for Texas’ current Medicaid program, but not enough to qualify for the Affordable Care Act plans – the “donut hole” that would have been covered by the federal Medicaid expansion funding that Governor Perry rejected – there will also be representatives from several health care organizations that provide free or reduced-cost care.
The first four workshops, all from 6:30PM to 8:00PM, will be held:
- Tuesday, October 22nd, Como Community Center, 4900 Horne St.
- Wednesday, October 23rd, Texas Wesleyan, Lou’s Place, 1112 Wesleyan St.
- Monday, October 28th, Moncrief Cancer Center, 400 W. Magnolia
- Tuesday, October 29th, Boys and Girls Club North Branch, 2000 Ellis Ave.
If you have any questions about the events, please call Rep. Burnam’s district office at 817-924-1997. For general questions about Obamacare, visit www.Healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.
Rep. Burnam explained the workshops – and what Governor Perry is doing to try and sabotage healthcare for working class and middle class Texans – in this recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram piece.