Our May Issue turned a spotlight on one of the most highly debated topics of the current legislative session: high-stakes testing in Texas schools. Not surprisingly, many an impassioned response came in from parents and teachers. “How about I hold [Sandy Kress] accountable now for ruining my children’s education, making school intolerable, and snuffing out their love of learning?” wrote an online commenter, pointing a finger at one of the architects of the state’s decades-long campaign for accountability in public education. Legislators have clearly been listening to these key constituents as well. This May the Senate agreed with the House and approved a bill that would overhaul the state’s approach to testing. 

And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers:

Going Coastal

The rolling dunes, the water, the coast! Oh, how I miss digging my toes in the sand! Having grown up in Corpus Christi, I am proud to say I have visited eight of the places on Mr. Oko’s journey [“The Secret Shore”]. But none holds my heart quite so tightly as the Big Tree on Goose Island. Back in the seventies, my family and our friends used to visit this magnificent beauty. Except that back then, there was no fence. I fondly recall us kids climbing all over and swinging like monkeys from, as we dubbed her, Big Momma’s loving branches. I do believe Momma was the first tree I ever hugged, and, of course, my arms couldn’t even begin to reach around her.
Vicki Hawthorne, via email


Kudos to you for publishing “Crash Test” and attempting to tackle one of the most fought-over issues in our state: standardized testing in public schools. As a former legislator and longtime champion for better education in Texas, I was thrilled for this important issue to gain magazine coverage, especially since it affects most Texans. However, the compliments end there. It astonishes me how an opportunity to garner public awareness for such a critically important issue quickly relies on political webs and high school–worthy gossip. 

I came to the Texas House in 1983 with education on my mind, and it has been there ever since. I have advocated for competency testing as long as I can remember. And for what I cannot remember, I have news articles to remind me. The Dallas Times Herald in 1984 quoted me as saying that “far too many students are being promoted from high school solely on the basis of seat time. That practice has to stop.” In 1989 you named me one of the best legislators and applauded when I “passed the most important bills in the most important field—education.” The Times Herald referred to my passion for education as “not just an agenda with Hammond; it is a crusade.”

My record speaks for itself. The idea that I am concerned not about the quality of testing but only a company could not be further from the truth. It is unclear to me how in this session I could have “emerged as testing’s staunchest defender” in one sentence of your article, while being referred to as “one of the Capitol’s most reliable accountability advocates” later in the piece. 

My biggest frustration and disappointment was the fact that you did not even report on the actual public policy issue and debate that is occurring over Texas’s curriculum for all Texas children. Sure, politics and unfounded gossip can be fun, but Texans are smart and savvy and deserve to read articles that help them gain insight into what is going on around them.
Bill Hammond, President and CEO, Texas Association of Business, Austin

Fish Tale

After reading “The Silver Kings,” I despair for the future of the magnificent tarpon. Although Texas has a bag limit of one and a minimum length of 85 inches, the relentless pursuit of these wonderful creatures, combined with the environmental degradation of the Gulf of Mexico, surely spells doom. Texans do not realize that the health of this fish, which as a predator lives at the top of the food chain, measures the health of the entire Texas coast. The epitaph of Texas and the modern industrial world will be composed of the obituary of the plants and animals destroyed for entertainment and avarice.
Norman W. Baxter, via email 

Safety Hazard

In your interview with Alfredo Corchado (“Darkest Before the Dawn”), he defends the ability of Mexicans to responsibly govern themselves by referring to the Texas city of “El Paso, which is one of the safest communities in the United States, and 80 percent of the people have Mexican roots.” As a third-generation El Pasoan whose family has been here since 1897, I would point out that El Paso is still very much in the throes of what is arguably one of the FBI’s longest and most extensive ongoing public-corruption cases in American history. Begun in 2004 to target a local nongovernmental organization, it quickly expanded into well over ten separate investigations of fraud and bribery at the county and city levels, in the school districts, and even at the University of Texas at El Paso. Also, at least ten businesses, mostly in health care, are implicated. There are a number of factors that may help to explain El Paso’s enviable public safety record, foremost being our outstanding police and sheriff’s agencies, but lack of public corruption is, sadly, not one of them.
Terrell T. Kelley, El Paso

Right Aid

As a conservative who enjoys reading Texas Monthly for new perspectives, I was interested in what Paul Burka had to say about the Medicaid expansion for Texas (“Health Scare”). Rick Perry just sets my teeth on edge, so I was hoping that Paul could make some sense out of the whole thing. Throughout the article, though, Paul emphasized that it was really no skin off our backs, as most of the expansion, over years to come, was going to be taken care of by “the Obama administration,” “federal money,” “federal government,” “federal funds,” etc. I’d like to remind Paul that all those words really mean “taxpayers,” so whether you are a Texan or not, we will still be footing the bill. Surely we all recognize where the “federal money” will come from. I have no issue with providing an appropriate level of medical care for those who work hard or are truly disabled and can’t afford it, but I’d sure like to see the tax dollars I already contribute used productively—and that is just what I’m not sure of.
Alana McCormick, Houston

Paul Burka uses one lie and one prevarication to bolster his typically liberal assertion that we need more welfare and that Governor Perry’s refusal to accept President Obama’s Medicaid gambit is at least unreasonable if not downright stupid.

First, the lie: PolitiFact is nonpartisan. In fact, PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times, a notoriously left-wing newspaper. Second, the prevarication: The report by the Perryman Group asserting that more welfare is good for business fails to tell the reader that Ray Perryman, the Perryman Group’s president, is a regular contributor to Democratic politicians. Both his practice as the king of dismal sciences (economics) and his unrelenting contributions to Democrats would convince most Texans that he has no clue about what is good for business. While Democrats occasionally boost business, they do so unwittingly—witness the recent boom to the gun and ammo business provided by our president. On the other hand, the president’s witting attempts to bolster business have failed miserably. The reasonable conclusion is that Governor Perry is dead-on—and that Burka is dead-wrong.
David Hudson, Beaumont

Questionable Bone-a-fides

Let me get this straight: Texas Monthly employs a person who writes a column called “The Texanist” and who offers advice about Texas, and this person has a bichon frise for a dog and is afraid of a possum? Get a rope!
James Hensley, Guthrie, Oklahoma