I am running for the Texas House of Representative…the worst job in politics.
Yes, you read that right.
First, the pay stinks– $7200 a year– which is about half the national poverty level, meager compensation for travel and lodgings, separation from family and friends, although I’m told the lobbyists will feed you everyday (the term “fatted calves led to slaughter” comes to mind) and the fact that you spend a fraction of your two-year term in actual, bonafide legislative sessions.
So, why do it? Why run for a lousy job which costs a fortune to win, but pays a pittance to do? Why bother rolling a boulder up a hill with myriad obstacles, including institutional patronage and cronyism, not to mention ignorance and apathy, standing in your way?
It became clear to me when the 2011 legislature slashed public education spending by anywhere from $4 to $5.3 billion. I expect the political right to demonize teachers unions– I watched it happen throughout my early life with a mother teaching in the public schools for 30 years– but I never expected the kind of callous disregard for common sense and the laws governing our state. Article 7 of the Texas State Constitution states: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, 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.”
I have a daughter entering the third grade. When the realities of the systematic devaluation of public education hits home, it hits hard. Whose responsibility is my kid’s education? Ultimately, it is mine– but Constitutionally and practically, we expect and deserve a system where making suitable provision for public education is, at least partly, the responsibility of the State of Texas. That means manageable class size, sufficient teachers and a progressive curriculum.
When the Republican State Committee platform demeans the value of critical thinking, or when we have to fire 12,000 teachers while expecting 80,000 new students, or face nearly 8500 waivers of the 22 to 1 student to teacher ratio in Kindergarten through fourth grade while maintaining tax loopholes for the wealthy, something is seriously wrong.
I’m running for this lousy job because somebody’s got to do it. Somebody’s got to care about my kid– and your kid’s future. I’m running for this lousy job because it is my job to do.
Rich Hancock is the Democratic nominee for TX House District 102. He is a broadcaster, formerly of WFAA Channel 8′s “Inside Texas Politics” in Dallas, Executive Director of RationalBroadcasting.com, a PTA parent, coach and homeowner in Richardson, Texas for over a decade.