Add State Rep. John Garza of San Antonio to the list of Republican legislators now trying to wriggle their way around their votes last year to slash public school funding by $5.4 billion. Garza is locked in a reelection race in House District 117 against challenger Philip Cortez, a former San Antonio city councilman who is making an issue of the budget cuts and the subsequent damage inflicted on classrooms.
Garza tried to defend his vote for the cuts in a TV interview this week. “We can’t spend what we don’t have,” he told KSAT.
What Garza didn’t admit, however, is that he and his colleagues had access to more than enough taxpayer dollars to avoid the cuts but chose to jeopardize the education of Texas children instead. The legislative majority left several billion dollars unspent in the Rainy Day Fund, a figure that will grow to at least $8.1 billion – and probably more — by the end of this budget period.
Garza voted to keep that money in the bank while approving an education budget that didn’t even keep pace with enrollment growth.
Garza’s budget vote is directly responsible for the loss, so far, of 25,000 school jobs, including almost 11,000 teachers, the overcrowding of thousands of classrooms and, in some districts, the closure of neighborhood schools. Garza also voted for SB8, a bill weakening teacher employment rights and making it easier for school districts to fire experienced teachers.
Garza claims on his campaign website that he wants to “improve education and access to educational opportunities.” He had that opportunity last session, but he failed…miserably.
That is why the Texas State Teachers Association is supporting Philip Cortez in District 117. Cortez agrees with TSTA that money from the Rainy Day Fund must be spent to begin repairing the damage from the budget cuts imposed by Garza and his allies.
“We are not going to short change our children,” Cortez said.
That is a major difference in viewpoint between Cortez and an incumbent who already has voted to short change students and educators.