You could say that Democrat Wendy Davis put Republican Greg Abbott on the defensive in the first exchange over education of their gubernatorial race. But, in truth, Abbott already had put himself on the defensive because he was on the wrong side of education long before he ever launched his gubernatorial campaign.
As Davis correctly pointed out, Abbott persisted in defending an unconstitutional school finance system, even after the legislative majority had slashed $5.4 billion from public schools. Abbott’s response that he was required by the state constitution to defend state laws was weak, coming from someone who aspires to lead Texas.
He, instead, could have demanded that the Legislature give him a school finance law that was defensible under that very same constitution. It didn’t require another court order to point out the obvious unfairness and inadequacy of the current system, but that is exactly what Texas got, despite Abbott’s attempted defense.
Moreover, Abbott dug himself into an even deeper hole on education a few weeks ago by announcing a so-called “budget plan” that would result in even deeper cuts to public schools and other critical state needs. The elements of Abbott’s budget proposal were designed simply to appeal to right-wing ideologues who want to continue to cut every government program in sight, without regard for the consequences.
All of which makes Abbott’s sounding board tour – or whatever he is calling it – of selected public schools seem very puny. At his first stop in Plano the other day, he promoted computers and online learning. In doing so, he tried to ignore the underlying financial struggle of many school districts with overcrowded classrooms, inadequate supplies, thousands of children whose families can’t afford computers and teachers having to take second jobs to make ends meet.
Plano ISD, incidentally, was one of several hundred school districts involved in the school finance lawsuit against the state, the lawsuit that Abbott lost. Had Davis been governor, she would have vetoed the budget cuts, forced the Legislature to try again and may have helped the state avoid the lawsuit.
Davis cut to the bottom line, while Abbott stammered.