AUSTIN, Texas – Former Texas Gov. Mark White, a Democrat who championed public education reforms that included the landmark “no-pass, no-play” policy for high school athletes during his single term in office, has died. He was 77.
The former governor, who fought kidney cancer for years, died Saturday in Houston shortly after waking up and feeling uncomfortable, according to his wife, Linda Gale White, and his son Andrew White.
“He cared about Texas deeply,” his son said. “He realized that this wasn’t about getting re-elected. This wasn’t about being popular. This was about making Texas a better place.”
White was governor from 1983 until 1987. He was Texas’ attorney general when he defeated incumbent Gov. Bill Clements, Texas’ first Republican governor since Reconstruction who spent a then-record $13 million on his re-election campaign. Clements came back to beat White four years later.
White’s education reforms included pay raises and competency tests for teachers, class size limits for elementary schools and the creation of the state’s high school basic skills graduation test. White also pushed through a $4 billion tax hike for schools and highways.
In a 2011 interview with The Associated Press, White said he tried to model his education platform on what his mother, a former first-grade teacher, talked about she experienced in the classroom.
“It was all designed around what a first-grade teacher needs,” White said. “It was probably the broadest-based education program in modern U.S. history. … I was very proud of what we accomplished.”
White appointed Dallas billionaire Ross Perot — who ran for president as an independent in 1992 — to lead a special panel on education that developed some of the key changes. The no-pass,…