Thursday, June 24, 2010

Meet the Democratic Statewides: Bill White

This series on the Texas Democratic Party's slate of statewide candidates concludes today with the bio and introductory video of the 2010 standard-bearer, nominee for Texas Governor Bill White.

White's parents were schoolteachers, which is likely why this campaign piece focuses on education.

There are many, many ways that Bill White and Rick Perry are different, but perhaps the most critical contrast is their approach to public education. Rick Perry steadfastly refuses to accept even the most obvious facts about the dropout crisis to our public schools. Bill White has made finding solutions to the state’s dropout crisis a central pledge of his campaign, because -- like business leaders, educators, and parents across the state -- he understands our state’s future depends on the kids we’re educating today.

The Texas Association of Business, in a recent report, stated: “Our state faces a true Texas-sized crisis… that will destroy our good business climate, prosperity and growth if it goes ignored.” As the report points out, there are only seven states in the country that have done a worse job than Texas in developing a well-educated young workforce. Only 30.7% of adults in Texas have an associate degree or higher.

A critical reason for Texas falling behind in education is the state’s dropout crisis, a crisis Rick Perry has offered little to no solutions for in his ten years as governor. In fact, Perry can’t even get the numbers right. He and his campaign team have continued to state that Texas’ drop-out rate is only ten percent. (Source: Houston Chronicle). Perry also ignores a report that the National Governors Association put out, stating that, as reported by the Dallas Morning News, “206 Texas high schools were dropout factories -- where at least 40 percent of ninth-graders failed to reach the 12th grade.” (Source: Dallas Morning News). Perry’s negligence on the dropout crisis is one major example of how he is not looking out for the future of our state.

While Rick Perry tries to hide from the dropout crisis, Bill White has a record of results. As mayor of Houston, White launched the Expectation Graduation program to help cut the dropout rate. Mayor White and his wife, Andrea, led volunteers to go directly to the homes of high school students who didn’t return. (Source: City of Houston). Their efforts led to approximately 8,800 students returning to school as a result, according to material posted on Bill White’s website.

White helped build a law firm, managed a successful business, and served as Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Clinton administration before being elected Houston’s mayor in 2003. During his time as mayor the Houston area was a national leader in job growth, with more jobs added than 37 states combined. At the same time, White cut property tax rates five consecutive years and helped senior and disabled citizens with tax relief.

White is best known for his leadership and decisive actions in crisis.  After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, White mobilized effective disaster response and relief, including first responders, businesses and churches. The city of Houston absorbed well over 100,000 Louisiana evacuees, finding shelter and then permanent housing for them. The experiences of Katrina prepared the city for the full blow of Hurricane Ike in 2008, and once again the city's services responded well at a time of severe emergency, as much of the region was without electricity for weeks afterward. For his compassionate, hands-on leadership after Katrina, White received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2007.

Texas is desperate for a leader who will stand up and fight for the future of Texans, be they a high school child at risk of dropping out, a displaced hurricane evacuee, or the hard working middle-class families across the state. We know who Rick Perry stands with: the wealthiest and the most privileged. Texans deserves much, much better than that.

Watch for occasional missives from Corpus this weekend, as I carry dual credentials again this cycle, delegate and media. My friend Neil at Texas Liberal offers four reasons why White will defeat Perry and capture the governorship.

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