As the entire education community knows, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his political allies, including Gov. Greg Abbott, declared war on public education a long time ago. And by education community, I don’t mean the pro-voucher and pro-privatization crowd because they are part of Patrick’s army.
Now, stung by recent editorial criticism, the lieuteuant governor is trying to strike back by renewing his war on the truth.
Last week, the San Antonio Express-News published an editorial about the severe financial plight of local school districts, including North East ISD, and laid the blame squarely where it belongs – on state government’s failure to adequately fund public education.
Headlined, “The state’s war on public education hits home,” the editorial pointed out that the state’s share of education funding is projected to fall to 38 percent in the 2018-19 school year, which begins next fall, increasing the school finance load on local property taxpayers.
The newspaper also criticized Patrick for his phony-baloney (my term) proposal to provide property tax “relief” by putting crippling limits on the ability of school boards and other local governments to raise property tax rates for needed services, such as the schools that Patrick and his allies refuse to adequately fund.
Patrick, in a published response emailed to political supporters, struck back. Among other things, he denied that the state’s share of funding had dropped to 38 percent. He called the figure a “myth that continues to be repeated over and over.”
The 38 percent figure, though, is not a myth. It is a projection from the Legislative Budget Board, the budget-writing arm of the Legislature that Patrick co-chairs, of the share of the Foundation School Program that the state will be contributing during the 2018-19 school year. The remainder, 62 percent, will be borne by local property taxpayers. That’s even worse than the current school year, when the state is paying 40 percent and local taxpayers, 60 percent.
The Foundation School Program doesn’t include federal funding. But even with federal funding, according to the Texas Education Agency, the state, as of the 2015-16 school year, was paying only 41 percent of school funding. The federal government was paying 10 percent, and local property taxpayers, 49 percent, the biggest share.
The state’s share of education funding has been slipping and the local share increasing for several years, including the entire time Patrick has been lieutenant governor and Abbott has been governor.
Updated rankings released by the National Education Association this week show that Texas spends $2,300 less per student in average daily attendance than the national average, ranking Texas 36th among the states and the District of Columbia. And average teacher pay in Texas has slipped to 29th, $7,316 below the national average.
“The problem here is the state has done nothing to address its byzantine, antiquated, severely broken, but somehow constitutional, school finance system,” the Express-News wrote in its editorial.
And sitting at the top of that state government are Patrick and Abbott, who keep turning their backs on school children and local property taxpayers.
The only way to remedy that is to vote…and Vote Education First!