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The Brief: Top Texas News for March 10, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry, addressing education cuts on Wednesday, had one message for districts facing layoffs: Don't shoot the messenger.

Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith

The Big Conversation:

Gov. Rick Perry, addressing education cuts on Wednesday, had one message for districts facing layoffs: Don't shoot the messenger.

At a news conference on state sovereignty, Perry said local districts, not the state, deserve the blame if $10 billion in cuts to public education results in any teacher layoffs.

Worst-case estimates have put layoff totals at 100,000.

"The lieutenant governor, the speaker and their colleagues aren't going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell," he said. "That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts."

Perry urged districts to first cut nonteaching and administrative positions, which he said districts have added in dramatic amounts over the past decade. "Are the administrators and the school boards going to make a decision to reduce those, or are they going to make a decision to reduce the number of teachers in the classroom?" he said. "I certainly know where I would point."

But education groups — some of which, as the Tribune's Morgan Smith recently reported, have disputed claims of such administrative excess — slammed Perry's message.

"We're baffled by Governor Perry's comments," said Dax Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Texas Association of School Boards. "Let there be no mistake that the decisions being made in school districts across the state regarding budget cuts and teacher layoffs are the direct results of decisions ... at the state Capitol."

Local school officials echoed the association's criticism. "It is easy to deflect responsibility and put the blame on school districts," Mark Williams, president of the board of the Austin Independent School District, told the Austin American-Statesman. "We are the ones that have to make the tough calls. Someone has to balance the budget."

Culled:

  • The state has barred a transgender woman running for mayor of Amarillo from appearing on the ballot under her chosen rather than legal name, according to the Amarillo Globe-News. Sandra Dunn, who has yet to legally change her name from Fred E. Dunaway, has refiled as F.E. (Sandra Dunn) Dunaway, but the secretary of state has said nicknames, which may appear in quotation marks or parentheses, may not include spaces. "As long as Sandra Dunn's on there, that's all I care about," Dunn told the Globe-News.
  • The push to confirm John Bradley, a Williamson County district attorney, as chairman of the Forensic Science Commission may have permanently stalled, as two Senate Republicans, John Carona of Dallas and Kevin Eltife of Tyler, confirmed Wednesday they will vote against him, the Austin American-Statesman reports. "Unless something changes, it's over," said Nominations Committee Chairman Bob Deuell, R-Greenville.

"If you want to hide out, go hide out in Big Bend [National Park], or hide out in an apartment in West Austin, but stay in the state of Texas." — State Rep. Dan Branch, who has filed legislation seeking to keep Texas lawmakers from fleeing the state to break quorum

Must-Read:

And on this week's TribCast: the abortion-sonogram stalemate, public education cuts and a higher ed fight

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