Listening to Sen. Dan Patrick lament the plight of poverty stricken children in Texas’ public schools almost made me want to pull out a violin and provide some appropriate teary-eyed accompaniment. But there were a few problems with that.
One, I didn’t have a violin. Two, I don’t know how to play one, anyway. And, three, violin music in a Senate Finance Committee meeting probably would have violated Senate rules.
Patrick was pleading with other committee members to include a contingent appropriation of $2 million to create a new regulatory panel for charter schools if he is able to win passage of his SB2, which would lift the cap on charters. The committee postponed action on the request, but not before Patrick went into rhetoric overdrive.
“It’s about the poor children in this state who have no hope for quality education,” he said, referring to his charter proposal.
Now, I submit that if Sen. Patrick really were concerned about providing a quality education for low-income children, he wouldn’t have voted with his colleagues in the legislative majority two years ago to slash $5.4 billion from public schools. The cuts included pre-kindergarten and other dropout prevention programs, which are particularly critical for disadvantaged children. Another result was thousands of low-income children being forced into overcrowded classrooms, losing some of the invaluable individual attention they need from their teachers. Other children lost reading specialists, and the list goes on.
Now, Patrick wants to attack the problem by expanding charters, an iffy proposition for students and Texas taxpayers, but an excellent financial opportunity for private operators of charter schools.
“Sometimes, we have to do the right thing,” Patrick declared.
Right on, but if only the senator recognized what the “right thing” is. The “right thing” for the senator and his colleagues to do now is restore the $5.4 billion they cut from public school students – rich, poor and middle class alike – two years ago and quit trying to experiment with unproven privatization schemes. On average, the cuts have cost each child about $1,062 in lost educational support over the past two years.
Patrick joined other members of the Senate Finance Committee in voting to restore $1.5 billion. That is a step in the right direction, but they need to restore the remainder. And, they have enough money to do so without raising anyone’s taxes.