If you would like to watch the dramatic debate on the evening of May 23 between Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio), and the House Representatives of AFT and the San Antonio public school superintendents, follow these instructions.
1. Go to this Texas Legislature Online link.
2. Click on the video link labeled
Date – 05/23/2011, Time – 2:00p.m. – 11:44p.m.
(You will need to download “RealPlayer” to view the video, if you don’t already have it on your computer.)
3. After clicking the correct video link, a video window should open up showing the floor of the Texas House. It is best to maximize the window to your full screen in order to more accurately move to particular points in the video. At the top of the video window you should see “Monday, May 23rd 2011 2:50pm”. If that does not appear at the top of the video, you have clicked the wrong video link and should close this video window, go back to the initial link and start over.
4. The video will look very blurred. Don’t attempt to adjust your video viewer controls. The goal of this video is to give you rough information about who is speaking, what they are saying, and some sense of the non-verbal cues that the speaker is showing.
5. You will see in the lower right corner a number showing the time duration of the video. This video is 8(hours):49(minutes):55(seconds) in duration. Now wait about 1 minute watching the video to make sure you have the audio on and at a good volume for your ears.
6. Don’t Panic!! You don’t have to sit in front of your computer and watch everything that happened in the House chamber on the evening of May 23.
7. Click on the pause button to pause the video. Look in the lower right corner. In front of 8:49:55 you will see 34Kbps 1:xx /, where xx is a two digit number. This number counts up from 0:00 to 8:49:55. It is the duration point on the video. This number is not the time on the House chamber clock. Rather, it shows how much time has passed on the video to reach this duration point.
8. You can change the duration point on the video by dragging or clicking ahead or behind of the button sliding on the “duration track” at the bottom of the video that visually shows where the duration point is. If the video “freezes” for more than thirty seconds, click the square “Stop” button and it will unusually “un-freeze”. I will give you specific duration points on the video that are important to the debate we are interested in.
9. Okay, I hope you non-techies have patiently and successfully gotten through the first eight “challenges” of this project. Now for the good parts.
10. The duration point where the debate on SB 738 begins is duration point 5:34:45. Move the button on the duration track to a duration point as close to, but less than 5:34:45. Now run (or un-pause) the video and watch the drama as Rep. Mike Villarreal presents and defends the amendment that he wants to add to the SB 738 to give more parental empowerment to the bill. The full debate ends at duration point 6:40:40 when Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D – San Antonio) submits a “point of order” that finally kills the amendment, in spite of having the amendment and the entire bill passed on two record votes.
11. After you have watched the entire debate, which lasts 1 hour and 6 minutes, there are a few significant moments (duration points) that I want to highlight.
12. The first significant moment is the beginning of the debate where you see Rep. Villarreal desiring to help the parents and children suffering in failing schools. I wouldn’t have believed it were true if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Less than a month ago, I saw him berate a novice testifier on a franchise tax credit bill by referring to tuition tax credits as “tax-credit vouchers”. Something dramatic has happened in the last year. At dur. pt. 6:34:10, Rep. Villarreal explains what has happened. The oldest of his two children began school last year. He and his wife were committed to using the public schools in their district, but his child’s assigned school was academically unacceptable. So with his political influence he persuaded the San Antonio ISD Superintendent Robert James Duron (who will reappear later in this drama) to convert his child’s school into a campus charter school. But instead of saying “I got mine, screw the rest of the peons” like President Obama has done, Rep. Villarreal has had the virtuous character to say, “I’m not satisfied with improving just my child’s school. I’m going to use my political power to fight for all Texas children trapped in failing public schools.” He has suddenly catapulted himself to be the most important member of the House and maybe the entire Texas legislature for the cause of education reform. For the first time in at least 10 years, Rep. Villarreal has made education reform a bi-partisan issue in the Texas Legislature! He is an intelligent and courageous Democratic champion of the parent seeking a good education for their child. I think that this transformation may be more important than the fact that SB 738 finally passed (without Villarreal’s amendment). Please use this link to encourage and thank Rep. Villarreal for fighting the good fight on May 23.
13. At dur. pt. 6:10:05, Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) speaks in defense of the amendment and in support of Rep. Villarreal. Rep. Patrick spent many years as a public school teacher and ISD school board member. She has received awards from groups associated with the public school system. She was elected to the House in a contentious primary where she defeated the incumbent, who was known as the education reform leader in the House and Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, with the help of all the public school status quo groups. She has had the reputation of being one of the stalwart status quo leaders, even if it wasn’t deserved. I confess that that was my opinion until I saw her walk to the microphone and defend Villarreal’s amendment. Now I cannot says where she stands with regard to education reform, but clearly she is open-minded about some level of education reform. That is good news for education reformers.
14. At dur. pt. 6:14:22, Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) provides a refreshing, but curious, note. He eloquently describes how school choice benefits all children both in and out of the public school system by holding school administrators accountable by the pressure of market forces. But after clearly winning the debate, he reenter the real world and says that he won’t use his vote to support what he knows to be true out of fear of retribution from the status quo political power groups. I believe that we can at least thank Rep. Strama for his debating eloquence and candor about his political fears.
15. At dur. pt. 6:37:55, Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) begins his creatively obscure logic about how Rep. Villarreal’s amendment will not benefit, but perhaps hurt the students in San Antonio’s failing schools. Notice carefully at dur. pt. 6:39:25 where Rep. Farias admits the reason he is disparaging the amendment. He was instructed to do so by “Dr. Duron”. He is referring to Dr. Robert James Duron, the superintendent of San Antonio ISD, the largest school district in Bexar County. Duron has been handsomely paid to manage this school district. His annual base pay has been $266,494 as of Oct. 2009, up from $254,998 for the two previous years. This does not include his generous benefit package. Unfortunately he hasn’t managed as well as he has been paid. For both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years his district was rated academically unacceptable.
Remember, Dr. Duron is the man who instructed Rep. Farias to stop an opportunity for the parents in his district to repair the problems that Duron is responsible for fixing. For those of you who would like to contact Dr. Duron about this situation, I provide you this link.
If you have made it to the end of this post, I thank you and comend you for your interest in education reform. Let’s help Rep. Mike Villarreal make his dream a reality for all of Texas.