Whose voices count?
Nearly 250 years after our country was founded, America still grapples with seemingly straightforward questions: Who counts? And do our voices count equally?
The U.S. Supreme Court, mirroring the deep divisions within the nation, delivered mixed answers in recent rulings.
It blocked, at least for now, the Trump administration’s cynical effort to add a citizenship question to the census. By all accounts, such a question would chill Hispanic participation in the census, not just among immigrants but among citizens who fear the information they provide could be used against a family member who’s undocumented, even though the federal government says it doesn’t share census data with law enforcement or anyone else. One study suggested the citizenship question could lead to an undercount of 1.1 million Texans, which would mean the loss of a congressional seat and $378 million annually in Medicaid funds, as well as other vital funding.
Distressingly, though, the high court abdicated its responsibility to address political gerrymandering. Ruling it’s not the federal judiciary’s place to referee disputes over whether a congressional district was drawn to favor one party over another, the court all but invited state lawmakers to game the political maps all they want. Who’s going to stop them?
We hope, next year, voters will.
The state lawmakers that Texans pick in 2020 will be every bit as consequential, if not as high-profile, as the person voters send to the White House. After the 2020 census, state lawmakers will draw Texas’ legislative and congressional districts for the coming decade. They will decide whether Austin remains shamelessly split between a half-dozen congressional districts — we’re the largest U.S. city without a congressional district that’s largely based in the city — or whether Texas communities will be kept intact so they can elect representatives who reflect their interests.
Texas has a terrible track record on this, with several studies ranking it among the most gerrymandered states in the country. ...
Both parties’ hands are dirty here.
The solution is to get lawmakers out of the business of drawing their own districts, as more than a dozen other states have done. Most of those states have redistricting commissions with an equal number of Republican and Democratic appointees, plus a couple of independent members unanimously selected by the partisan ones. Such a mix, often in combination with state laws requiring districts to be drawn fairly, is more likely to produce truly representative districts. ...
Work to do for 2036
The Dallas Morning News
Texas’ enormous economic success the past couple of decades is revealing troubling weaknesses in our state’s educational system and workforce.
Texas unemployment is at the lowest rate ever, but many companies must hire out-of-staters because we don’t have enough native Texans with the right education to fill the jobs. Our education system lags that of other states, and though our GDP is gangbusters, too many families struggle with poverty.
These problems feel overwhelming, too big for one company or school to fix, too big for lawmakers to solve in one legislative session. What we need is a group of Texans with a long-term vision and the financial and political resources to make things happen. Tom Luce is gathering those people.
Luce, a Dallas lawyer and longtime advocate for education reform, started Texas 2036, a nonprofit that aims to use data and research to help Texas solve these long-term, structural problems. The idea is to put the state on firmer footing by 2036, the Texas bicentennial. The group, founded in 2016, launched a meaty data website last fall.
Last week, the organization reached another milestone by naming a chief executive, Margaret Spellings. Spellings was U.S. Secretary of Education under George W. Bush and most recently was president of the University of North Carolina System. She also served as head of the George W. Bush Foundation.
We don’t know if Luce and Spellings can solve Texas’ education and workforce issues. We do know that nobody else has gathered so much data with the intention of finding solutions. Texans don’t even have a common understanding about what success looks like, or which data sets are useful and which are noise. ...
In less than two decades, Texas will celebrate its 200th birthday. Exactly how much it will have to celebrate will depend on this kind of work.