Editorials

Gov. Mark White was a man of vision and guts

In this June 19, 1985 file photo, Texas Gov. Mark White speaks before a congressional committee on the environment and public works in Washington. Former Texas Gov. Mark White, a Democrat who championed public education reforms, including the landmark “no-pass, no-play” policy for high school athletes, died, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. He was 77.
In this June 19, 1985 file photo, Texas Gov. Mark White speaks before a congressional committee on the environment and public works in Washington. Former Texas Gov. Mark White, a Democrat who championed public education reforms, including the landmark “no-pass, no-play” policy for high school athletes, died, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. He was 77. AP

Mark White was a reformer.

In a single term as governor, he pushed for a dramatic overhaul of the state’s education system, emphasizing academics over sports, increasing teacher pay and limiting class sizes.

He raised standards for teachers and for students. And he raised taxes to pay for these improvements, which no doubt contributed to the brevity of his tenure.

White’s education policies were controversial, even in his own party. That’s why they were so remarkable.

His “no pass, no play” initiative, which makes students ineligible for extracurricular activities if they don’t pass their schoolwork, did not receive a warm reception in a state where football his king.

The policy benched students all over the state and drew harsh criticism and lawsuits a-plenty.

But White believed that holding kids to high standards increased their chances of success after the Friday-night-lights glory had faded. His policy still stands.

White’s commitment to improving education didn’t end with his time in the governor’s mansion.

A Baylor University alum, he also urged reform of his beloved school, pressing regents for accountability and transparency after the recent sexual assault scandal.

To the very last, he sought to make Texas institutions better.

“So much for guts and glory,” he said on his way out of office.

We’re sure grateful he had guts.

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