Texas Rep Dennis Bonnen Thinks It's Easier To Teach “Coonass” Katrina Evacuees Than Refugee Kids

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State Representative Dennis Bonnen said in a committee hearing this week that there has been “way too much focus on the children” refugees along the border. He also made a faux pas during that same meeting that might have some Cajuns ragin' and maybe anyone who speaks Spanish as a first language.

The first rule of using ethnic slurs is — don't. Sure there may be exceptions like referring to yourself for instance (if you're into that sort of thing) but certainly not at the dais of a Legislative Committee Hearing which you are chairing.

He was trying to describe why children from Central America might be harder to teach than evacuees from Katrina — “we had to have a teacher who could do Coonass and English, but here we have to do Spanish and English, maybe, and there's a higher marker.”

More below the jump…The most impressive thing is that in his short comment he managed to disparage both Central American children and those from the Acadiana portion of Southern Louisiana.

Lawmakers across the (Louisiana) border have already fired back. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Louisiana state Rep. Karen Gaudet St. Germain, chairwoman of that state's Legislative Women's Caucus, said its use is only appropriate for those with Cajun ancestry.

“It's OK if we call each other crazy but it's not good for someone else to insinuate that word in a conversation about children. That's pretty low,” said St. Germain, R-Erath, adding that, “I promise you I wouldn't say that about kids from Texas.”

My family is from that part of Louisiana and my bi-lingual grandparents spoke the broken French language which he is referring to, and according to a 2011 report by the US Census Bureau 36% of Texans speak a language other than English at home, surpassed only by California and New Mexico.

The Houston Chronicle reported earlier this year, “more parents want their children to grow up bilingual and studies generally show positive academic results.” As the number of Spanish speakers increases in Texas so has the enrollment in dual language classes. That number is over 66,000 students which has doubled since the 2009-2010 school year.

According to Harvard's Graduate School of Education “dual language programs, which provide instruction in both English and a second language, are flourishing in elementary schools across the country as educators find benefits for both English-language learners (ELLs) and those fluent in English.”

Many job openings in the booming Texas economy also prefer candidates to be bilingual.

Bonnen may not think it is worth the money to educate these kids, but building up a presence on the border is isn't cheap either. Right now it's costing the state over $3 million a week and does nothing to address the refugee crisis. Steve McGraw the Director of the Department of Public Safety said what many Democrats and those critical of the surge have been saying all along that National Guard troops wouldn't be “dealing with the children at all” except to turn any they encounter over to Border Patrol.

Hopefully conservatives will wake up and listen to GOP members like David Simpson and other religious groups who have called for compassion. But if that doesn't work we know what language they do understand — money.

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

h/t Progress Texas

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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