Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crisis at The University of Texas

A forced resignation or firing would be a travesty for UT.
 – Kay Bailey Hutchinson
Former U.S. Senator and Current President of Texas Exes

Texas Politics is much like watching a soap opera.  If you miss an episode, you miss a lot but you can always catch up.  It seems as though many of us have missed a few episodes when it comes to The University of Texas at Austin and they current predicament that they find themselves in.  This artificially made “scandal” has been fermenting over the course of the course of the past year.  Please understand that like most soap operas, there is a long, intricate, convoluted story to it all so for the sake of keeping it simple, the present urgency is what I will address.   The “How did this Happen?” not near as important as the “What can we do about it now?”

What is ultimately at stake is the job of UT’s President Bill Powers.  A conservative special interest group named, Empower Texans, has made the claims that students that have recommendation letters from Texas Legislators have been given preferential treatment in admissions into The University of Texas.  Their motives for pursuing this so relentlessly has been questionable to say the least (I theorize that the firing of uber-conservative Law School Dean, Lawrence Sager is the foundation of it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_G._Sager and Governor Rick Perry’s attempt to influence Powers is also to blame).  Outside counsel was asked to look into this matter to see if there was any validity to the accusations.  It was investigated and his report said that despite there was nothing to it.  Administratively, Wallace Hall has been the point person on the UT Board of Regents that has been pushing the theory of wrong doing by President Powers and UT Admissions.  Despite the report of no wrongdoing, Empower Texans and Hall have been on a crusade to turn this into a full blown scandal.  This obsession with this matter has known absolutely no bounds.  His open records requests have cost the University tens of thousands of tax payer money.  His “investigation” has also potentially violated the privacy of UT students to the point where the Travis County Attorney is now investigating his actions.  In December 2013, a marathon Board of Regents meeting was held to determine if President Powers should remain in his position.  The meeting ended with Bill Powers remaining as President Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa giving a lukewarm endorsement.  Wallace Hall’s over-the-top behavior has finally driven the Texas Legislature to act with the House Transparency Committee (with a 7-1 vote) recommending his impeachment from the UT Board of Regents which is unprecedented for a non-elected official (http://ballotpedia.org/Wallace_Hall_impeachment_trial).  Since this has never been done before, the articles of impeachment are being drawn up and explicit instructions were given to the Board of Regents not to do anything until this matter has been resolved.  Furthermore, Chancellor Cigarroa has since resigned in February to accept a position at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio and step down once a replacement has been found. 

Last week, it was reported that Chancellor Cigarroa has requested that Bill Powers resigns before he is terminated before the end of the week (July 12th).  This is extremely concerning.  Why would this kind of decision be made by the Board of Regents at this time after being instructed not to take any actions?  Why would Chancellor Cigarroa move forward with this knowing that he will not be in his current position by the end of the year?  This whole thing completely reeks of meddling into the academic world by special interests and overly partisan influence.  Why is it so important to immediately terminate a highly regarded school president?  Are some individuals worried about how this could affect some elections that are taking place this November?  Look at the individuals who are pressing for Bill Powers firing.  Rick Perry, who will not be here in November, supports firing Powers (Many Aggies need not be reminded of Perry’s interference at Texas A&M administration a couple of years ago).  Dan Patrick supports firing.  Michael Quinn Sullivan supports firing Powers.  Empower Texans supports firing Bill Powers.  Keep in mind that Michael Quinn Sullivan and Empower Texans have their own legal troubles with their stubborn refusals to register with the Texas Ethics Commission and to release the names of their donors that support their overly partisan operations.  That begs the question, who are these donors who are funding this crusade against Bill Powers?  Are they seeking a Board of Regent position?  Do they want to turn UT as well as other schools into a “$10,000 degree plan diploma mill”?  Why the urgency on this matter?  Do Texans support partisan politicians interfering on what is supposed to be an independent, academic facility?  Are Texans prepared for The University of Texas to take a hard right in its administration knowing that these are the same individuals that have battled against higher education for years?  Are alumni at other schools prepared for their school to have the same kind of interference?  If you are the president of Texas A&M, Texas Tech, or Stephen F. Austin would now be inclined to bow to political pressure from individuals from any party since it could possibly mean your job?  How can a University operate under those kinds of conditions?   

This is a complicated matter and it is extremely hard to explain.  I have simplified to the best of my ability but the urgency cannot be understated.  Call or email your local state officials and demand that no action be taken against President Bill Powers until the impeachment of Wallace Hall takes its course.  As you can see, there are far too many questions that need to be asked before an action like firing the President of a University takes place.  Bill Powers has the support of students, faculty, and alumni.  He does not deserve to be terminated.  Education in Texas has been under attack from the State Legislature for the last 20 years.  It is time to take a stand.  Higher education in Texas is depending on your actions.

Hook ‘Em
Shane Hardin
The University of Texas at Austin, ‘97

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Is This What Keller ISD Needs?

Keller ISD voters will select school board trustees on May 10th.  When considering candidates, it is important to focus on the issues, but also their ability to fulfill the duties of their office.
It is with a heavy heart that I must bring to light that candidate for Place 5, Jo Lynn Haussmann is in an assisted living facility for dementia issues that have plagued her for several years and affected her employability.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other critical thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.”  For a diagnosis of dementia to occur, at least two core mental functions must be significantly impaired including: memory, communications and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception.
In an Oct. 16, 2012 post on Facebook, Ms. Haussmann said, “It's so frustrating as I want to work but every job I get I bomb because of the dementia issues.  It's very discouraging KNOWING how intelligent and capable I was and now I can't do hardly anything."  In a separate post the next day, she stated, “I am on permanent disability & only 60 [years old].  I am diagnosed with dementia and I have many physical disabilities.”  These comments were deleted in recent days ever since this video surfaced as proof that they existed and were publicly searchable at the time.
It is important to understand that dementia is just one form of Alzheimer’s and is a progressive disease. Because of her relatively young age, we speculate that Ms. Haussmann probably has the more aggressive early-onset dementia.  This type of dementia usually comes on in a person’s 40s or 50s and symptoms are frequently and incorrectly attributed to stress or other illnesses (www.alz.org).
Perhaps this explains why Ms. Haussmann was unable to fulfill her role in 2013 on the Watauga City Council and resigned abruptly after only four months.
She was asked to run for this position back in February by Giovanni Capriglioni, State Representative District 98.  Since then Capriglioni and other Tea Party conservatives such as Jonathan Stickland, State Representative District 92 and Matt Krause, State Representative District 93 have actively promoted Ms. Haussmann as the candidate who would “stand up for conservative values” and defeat my “liberal extremist agenda.”
Those who know me know that they couldn’t be more off base, but this isn’t about me.  This is about people who are so focused on drawing political party lines that they are willing to use a woman in assisted living suffering from dementia as their puppet.  It’s also important to note that in school board elections, party affiliations are not declared because they are not supposed to play a factor in the decisions we make for the well being of our children’s education.
Ms. Haussmann is to be commended for her ability to face these personal challenges, but it is important for voters to have all the information they need to understand how these medical challenges will interfere with her ability to fulfill the responsibilities of her role as a KISD trustee.
I have always been and will remain committed to campaigning in a positive manner. Discussing another candidate’s personal information can conflict with that, but I believe there is a difference between mud slinging for the sake of winning and bringing to light a medical issue that directly impacts a candidate’s ability to fulfill their office and make critical decisions.
Anyone with family members or friends suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia know how difficult and devastating this disease can be, and we don’t encourage them to run for public office.  The kids of Keller ISD are depending on our Board of Trustees to make decisions affecting their future.  The risk is simply too great to have someone with a medical condition such as this to be on that Board.  I sincerely wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors, but being a Trustee on the KISD board should not be one of those endeavors.  My thoughts and prayers go out to her and her family.

*Disclosure: Matt Krause was my opponent in the 2012 election for State Representative District 93. I lost to Krause with 38% of the vote.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Any Questions for Shane Hardin?

I wanted to take an opportunity to post my responses to the United Educators Association Questionnaire.  I would like more people to know the real Shane Hardin and not a stereotyped ideologue that some would have you believe that I am.  

Reality is, I am simply a Keller ISD father that strongly believes in the future of public education for his daughters.

Please go to www.HardinforKISD.com to learn more.

United Educators Association School Board Candidate Questionnaire
Name:                  Shane Hardin
Running for:       Place 5 on the Keller Board of Trustees 

1.  Please provide any personal background information you would like to share with the employees of the district.

My name is Shane Hardin and I am running for Place 5 on the Keller Board of Trustees.  I was born in Texas, raised in Texas, and graduated from The University of Texas.  I grew up in a small town east of Dallas called Wills Point.  I attended Wills Point High School where I was on the honors program, lettered in baseball, and graduated in 1993.  From the small town, I went for the big city lights of Austin, Texas.  I attended The University of Texas at Austin from 1993 through 1997, graduating with a B.A. in government and a minor in history.  I have been in the homebuilding industry since 2001 as a Construction Manager.  My family and I have lived in the Fort Worth/Keller area since 2005.  My wife works at Texas Health Resources as a recruiter in Fort Worth.  My oldest daughter, Kaylee (10), attends Timberview Middle School and my younger daughter, Savannah (6), attends Bette Perot Elementary School.  I have been a Watch D.O.G. (Dad’s On Guard) on several occasions.  I am KISD Community Ambassador.  I am also currently serving on the Keller ISD Citizens’ Bond Advisory Board.

2.  What three issues do you think are the most important facing the district?  Please explain.

There are three issues that will be affecting Keller ISD in the near future.  One, the Bond issue is critical to the future of KISD.  Of course the board itself cannot advocate on its behalf but with a vote to place the issue before the voters, their support is something that may be assumed.  This bond will give KISD the necessary funds for much needed improvements to existing facilities as well as provide for the construction of a new Career and Technology Education Building.  This is essential for KISD to be competitive among area schools.  The second issue is that of school funding.  The current school funding formula is antiquated and inadequate.  Keller ISD participated in a lawsuit against the state making those charges as well.  There is a high probably that this lawsuit will be ruled in favor of KISD (as well as other ISD’s that participated).   If that happens, we need individuals, like myself, who are versed in the way of school funding so that we can do our best to make sure that area Keller kids get an equitable share of state funding.  The last challenge that I feel is ahead for Keller is the changing demographics of KISD.  The fastest growing demographic being, economically disadvantaged – 22% of KISD students.  KISD has not adjusted to this as quickly as it risen.  These kids require more resources to educate.  I want to be their advocate.

3.  How will you as a board member ensure input from community members, parents, teachers and business is heard and acted upon?

Sometimes, being a school board member is a thankless job.  It requires an extreme amount of listening.  You will get good input and sometimes not so good input.  But the most important part of a school board member is to listen very carefully on what the community wants, weigh that with the best interests of KISD kids, and act accordingly. 

4.  As a board member, what would you see as the board’s role in providing competitive salaries and benefits for its employees?

With rising competition from the public and private education, it is extremely important to offer aggressive salaries to our teachers.  Being a teacher is a tough job.  It is not an 8 am to 3 pm job.  It is not an August through May job.  The demands put on today’s teachers require you to find talented, dedicated individuals for those roles.  You have to pay competitive wages in order to get that.  Texas as a state ranks 40% among the other states for teacher compensation and they rank last in the nation for contributions towards teacher benefits.  We have to try and do better at KISD.

5.  As a board member how would you expect the district to handle an employee who needs improvement?

In today’s workforce, I do not like to see anyone lose their job no matter what their profession.  For teachers, they work hard for years to go to college and to get their certification in order to enter the trade.  This is not a profession that you go into to attain wealth.  They have to do this for the passion of education.  These teachers spend more time in the day with our kids than some parents get to.  But again, the demands have never been higher on teachers as a whole today.  So it is important to let our teachers know how important they are to the success of KISD and how they fit into the big picture of things in the district.  If an individual teacher is underperforming, it is important for administration to step in and see how they can assist them.  Is it switching them to a different location?  A different grade?  How can we help that struggling teacher?  Simply approaching a teacher who is under performing and chastising that person, reprimanding, or “writing-up” will only produce animosity and create a toxic work environment for others.  I want to have an environment that Keller is a school district where teachers know that they will get the support they need to succeed.

6.  Please discuss any other issue you feel is relevant to your election to the Board of Trustees.

There is something else that I would like to address.  I am a public education advocate.   Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution clearly states that, “it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”  There is very little room for interpretation on this.  There are no asterisks.  Any money diverted from public schools to go anywhere else, is against the Texas Constitution.  I am the product of Texas public education, from kindergarten through college.  I am a believer in the public education system.  I reject the argument that our public education system is a failure.  That is insulting to hundreds of KISD employees and students that are everyday success stories.   My two daughters are in our public education system and I confidently send them to KISD schools.  Of course, there can always be room for improvement.  But that is where is it so critical to have a Board of Trustee member who believes in public education.  If you have a supportive School Board, the sky is the limit on what that school district can accomplish.   

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Semi-Christian Nation?

America as a Christian nation. I have heard that by many that we are a nation that was founded upon Christian principles. I rarely try to interject that most of the people that settled in America came here so that they may have freedom from the Church of England. That would destroy the Romanticized of God, country, and apple pie. Fake historian David Barton has made an entire career perpetrating this ideal. Never find those facts that the founders desired the completed opposite and that there is an implied separation of church and state in most of our founders writings.

Facts are stupid things.

The fact is, that most of these people who continue to push this Christian nation idea are individuals who have not seen the inside of a church in years. I can look past that. You do not necessarily need a church to be of faith. What I have to wonder is, why do we not ACT like a Christian nation. Why are we so quickly to dismiss the less fortunate? Why are we so quick to not look twice upon that homeless man we walk by on the corner? There is a pretty good chance that homeless man was a former service member. Why is America so quick to demonize being poor? We tell them to stop but they just can’t, as if these people actually choose to be poor. We hurry to embarrass these people by requiring them to take drug tests to get public assistance. It is the same public assistance that so many are working so hard to cut and ultimately, eliminate. The discussion of making children sweep and clean their schools for school lunches is not dismissed, but advocated as a good idea. Those are the same individuals that will fight for the right of these kids to be born but yet, will not fight to make sure that they have the accessible healthcare or nutrition.

Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t there a big part of the Bible that advocates for taking care of the poor? Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple scriptures that address that. Mathew 25:35 is the most direct, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Is that the Bible discussing food stamps? One of my personal favorites is John 3: 17-18 which basically asks how a can a man of faith turns away from one in need? I could go on and on with examples but one other point in the Bible that stays pretty consistent is the disdain for money and material goods. My all-time favorite is Mark 10:25, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven”. As much as I would like to see many Goldman Sachs executives in hell, does that also mean that Bill Gates will not see heaven despite all of the charities that he gives to? Since the Bible is the textbook for members of a certain party, why do they remain so steadfast in their desire to eliminate any and all programs designed to help those who need it the most. Do these people see no hypocrisy in their political philosophy and their faith? On the contrary, the less fortunate are seen as leeches on society. Their mere existence is a burden upon the rest of us God-fearing, free market loving, Americans

Oh yes, there are those words, “the free market”. The free market is the Utopia for these same religious people. Little or no restrictions on the economy or the commerce of our country. A Laiseez Faire world where businesses could do as they pleased. I ask, isn’t the free market a direct contradiction of the charitable and loving ideology in the Bible? If so, what is more important, the love of the free market or the religious ideals that you have embraced for all those years?

I do not believe you have both. And deep down, their party knows it too. Want proof? Ask Jan Brewer in Arizona.

Monday, March 17, 2014

History Says What?

Let’s preface my rant by saying, I love history. History has been and always will be one of my favorite subjects. It is one of the few things that captured my attention and my imagination. To me, it has always been fun to read about our past times and ask, “What if”. It is mind blowing how a chance occurrence or crossed paths can change the course of history. History is not only fascinating but it is also so very important for a society. There is a reason why it is taught from elementary all the way through graduate studies.

Past is prologue.

Learning history can prevent you from learning mistakes of the past. Am I in the minority with this opinion? I watched a program last night where Judge Andrew Nepolitano was seriously trying to argue that the American Civil War was unnecessary because slavery was dying out by itself and that people should not hold Abraham Lincoln in such high regard. This is an educated man that was making such an insane argument. For the sake of this rant’s length, I will not even delve into the numerous reasons why he is wrong but it takes me to my overall pet peeve, revisionist historians. Granted, many perceive a bias in the news however they choose to get it. Many even try to give their own spin on history. But, as in Nepolitano’s case, to outwardly change historical facts to suit your purpose is wrong. Even worse, they are changing history to suit their ideology. It should be the other way around. You should suit your ideology around historical facts. Another example is “historian” David Barton that has argued that the modern day separation of church and state is not what the founders of our country wanted. One of his most blatant lies is his misrepresentation of a Christian Thomas Jefferson as one of the foundations of trying to make his argument (Jefferson was at best agnostic but probably atheist). His “facts” were so false, that his own publisher pulled his last book off shelves.

What troubles me most, is that future generations are depending on us to document history. To pass it down as accurately as possible that so others can learn. What will happen if we start revising history and future generations try to learn from that? It troubles me a great deal. Recently, I was having an exchange with a libertarian where I was trying to explain to him that the closest thing to a free market that we have recent in recent history was 2000-2008 thus causing the Financial Meltdown of ’08. He refused to believe despite all of the facts that I had showing the deregulatory actions that made Wall Street a Laissez-Faire environment. This exchange caused me some reflection. Perhaps he could not see a repeat of lax regulation and how it correlates to poor economic conditions. Then the realization occurred to me that as a country, we did not learn from Herbert Hoover’s inaction leading to the Great Depression. We, as a country, failed to learn from history.

How many times must we practice the definition of insanity?