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Johnny Football Bigger Than The State Of Texas Itself

Texas Monthly

Texas Matters: The embattled Texas school finance system continues to discriminate against districts in poorer areas. Right now the Johnny Manziel autograph controversy is one of the biggest storylines in sports, and Texas Monthly explores his role as an American anti-hero. Also on this episode: Texas contract workers have little protection from injury and wage theft, but the Workers Defense Project is trying to change that. Sunday is the 200th anniversary of the "tremendous slaughter" that was the Battle of Medina.

School funding creates haves and have nots

In February a state judge found Texas’s school finance system unconstitutional for the second time in a decade and Texas school districts will begin this year with big differences in state funding.

KERA’s Shelley Kofler takes a look at the funding gap and how it’s affecting kids in a district that is often at the end of the receiving line.

Texas Monthly asks: Who is Johnny Football?

Everyone is talking about Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M star quarterback who is frequently called "Johnny Football" and is the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, the top individual award for college football players.

Manziel is accused of violating strict NCAA (the governing body for student athletes) rules against players profiting from the game and the story is no longer just a sports story, it’s a reflection of Texas values and the blurry definition of college football's amateur status.

Manziel is featured on the new cover of Texas Monthly and Editor in Chief Jake Silverstein explains why this is such a big story:

"People are saying Manziel was worth $37 million to Texas A&M in terms of his marketing value, just for about two or three months around his Heisman Trophy last year, and yet he can't take $7,500 to sign his autograph? Or, college football as a business is valued at about $1.2 billion a year for the various conferences and schools, and yet one of the biggest stars in the game might be ineligible to play because he took $7,500. So that has become much more of a debate than it was in the past."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Fighting for the rights of workers

Texas is the deadliest state for construction workers and is the only state that does not require building contractors to provide workers’ compensation to cover hospital bills when a worker gets injured on the job.

Texas is also one of the biggest states when it comes to wage theft for construction workers, which is when, on pay day, the boss tells his contract workers to leave without paying them.

It used to be that unions would be the solution for worker grievances, but now organizations like the Workers Defense Project are coming forward looking for creative ways to protect the rights of documented and undocumented workers.

Cristina Tzintzún is the statewide director of the Workers Defense Project:

"The industry in Texas is almost a Wild West in that there is so little regulation and so many injuries. So a recent study we did with the University of Texas showed that one in five construction workers in the State of Texas had been seriously injured on the job requiring them to seek medical attention. We're the only state in the country that doesn't require employers to carry worker's compensation coverage to pay for the medical costs of a worker if they are injured. And that means that often times the tax payers get stuck with the bill."

The bloody Battle of Medina

On Sunday Texas will recognize the bicentennial of the Battle of Medina, the failed attempt to liberate Texas and the bloodiest battle in the state’s history that was 23 years before the Battle of the Alamo.

The precise site of the battlefield has been lost to time, but Texas historian Dan Arellano is determined to make sure that future Texans will remember the battle itself.

"It was a tremendous slaughter. It was so disastrous that one-third of the Tejano community were dead, one-third would flee to Louisiana, and the remaining one-third would live in terror."
"The Spanish forces had 1,830 combatants -- that doesn't include followers, mule drivers, etc. -- that was combatants. The Tejanos -- the Republican Army of the North as they called themselves -- consisted of 1,400: 900 Tejanos, 300 Americans, and perhaps as many as 200 indigenous, primarily the Pine Mission Indians and so forth. So it wasn't that they were too overly matched, it's just that they encountered a superior well-trained disciplined army."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi