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Former Texas Governor Mark White Dead At 77

During his time as Governor, White pushed to improve the state through strong education reform.

Texas Gov. Mark White gestures June 19, 1985 while speaking before the environment and public works in Washington. (AP Photo)

Former Texas Governor Mark White has died. White, a Democrat, was best known for his work championing public education reform.

White’s education reforms included pay raises and competency tests for teachers, bilingual education, and class size limits for elementary schools.

Speaking in 2014, White said he tried to model his education platform on what his mother, a former first-grade teacher, said she experienced in the classroom.

“We tried to make it work for the first grade teacher,” the former governor said. “If you do the job right in the first grade, you’ll never have to teach them their alphabet again. You’ll never have to teach them how to read again, never have to teach them how to spell again.”

White’s reforms also included the “no-pass no-play” rule, barring students from playing school sports if they were failing a class. That proved highly unpopular in a state crazy about high school football. White also battled a flagging Texas economy as the price of oil crashed to $9 a barrel. In 1986, he lost his reelection bid to former Republican Governor Bill Clements, the same man he’d beaten to win the job four years earlier.

White, who suffered for years from kidney cancer, passed away Saturday at his home in Houston. He was 77.

Laura Isensee also contributed to this report.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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