Month: <span>August 2012</span>

Rainy Day Fund, $8.1 billion — schools, zero

Remember all the taxpayer money that the governor and the legislative majority left in the Rainy Day Fund while slashing $5.4 billion from the public schools in the current two-year budget? Well, that Rainy Day sum will total at least $8.1 billion by the end of the budget period, analysts told the Legislative Budget Board today.

That is enough money to close a $4.7 billion hole in the Medicaid program, repay school districts about $2.5 billion for the upcoming school year AND have Rainy Day money left over for other needs. Additionally, an improving economy is boosting state general revenue by $5 billion more than the comptroller forecast when the current budget was written.

Months ago, TSTA urged the governor to call the Legislature into special session to appropriate $2.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to avoid cuts for the 2012-13 school year, which begins later this month. But the governor has refused, the fund continues to grow and school districts continue to cut jobs and reduce programs – or, in some cases, prepare to ask local voters to pay higher property taxes.

It doesn’t make much sense, except in a selfish, anti-public education political way.

Warped education policies at warp speed?

State Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, who supported Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s unsuccessful campaign against tea party favorite Ted Cruz for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, is moving quickly to regain what popularity his Dewhurst endorsement may have cost him with the ultra-right. Patrick is quoted in today’s Austin American-Statesman as saying the state Senate will move at “warp speed” next year to pass an ultra-conservative agenda.

Unfortunately, Patrick’s optimism is fueled by the likely addition of four new conservative senators to the Legislature’s upper chamber. They include right-winger Donna Campbell, who unseated the more-moderate Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio in Tuesday’s GOP runoff. Campbell won the support of tea party-types and the financial backing of Texans for Lawsuit Reform members, who will sacrifice just about anything, including quality public schools, to elect another legislator to continue their assault on consumers’ access to the courthouse.

Campbell has a Democratic opponent, John Courage, but the district is heavily Republican.

As I have noted frequently and recently, elections have consequences. And, barring the restoration of some political sanity in the general election, the consequences of this year’s primary races may be even deeper budget cuts to public education and more steps toward turning public schools into profit centers for education privateers. Patrick may very well end up as chairman – ugh — of the Senate Education Committee.

Warp speed? What about warped policies? The prospect of enacting warped policies at warp speed is, indeed, scary.