Even as he continues to try to convince voters that he is a champion of education, Dan Patrick makes it clearer and clearer that, if elected lieutenant governor, he will cut education spending. In fact, he says so in his latest fund-raising appeal.
“Did you know that forty cents of every dollar in the state budget is spent on public education?” he asks in bold-faced type in the email. “We don’t need to throw more money at the problem; we need to use existing resources more efficiently.”
Actually, about 37 cents of every dollar in the current state budget is earmarked for public AND higher education, and education should account for a lion’s share of the budget because it is one of the most important functions of state government. But, despite Patrick’s claim, Texas has never “thrown” money at schools. Texas, in fact, ranks among the lowest states in per-pupil funding, more than $2,600 below the national average during the 2013-14 school year.
Patrick’s statement, moreover, makes it clear that he doesn’t intend to spend any additional money on education, and that, folks, means he intends to further cut the amount of state funding for each student in public schools. Why? Because enrollment in Texas public schools is growing by about 80,000 students per year, and each year the Legislature doesn’t appropriate enough money to meet that growth, each student receives less. Classrooms become more crowded. Districts raise local taxes if they can and cut back on computers, books and other instructional materials.
Patrick already has voted (in 2011) to cut $5.4 billion from public school budgets. That has had the effect of reducing spending by almost $500 per child since 2010-11. And, in 2013, he voted against the entire state budget, which included money to partially make up for the 2011 cuts.
A few weeks ago, Patrick claimed to have led the fight to restore education funding in 2013, but that was snake oil, and Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, the genuine education champion in the lieutenant governor’s race, called him out on it.
And what about his call for using “existing resources more efficiently”? That’s more campaign blather, because what he really wants to do is divert more tax dollars from public schools to privatization schemes, such as corporate charters and private school vouchers.
Patrick is dodging every public appearance he can these days, including a debate scheduled with Van de Putte tomorrow night. He is hoping the “R” behind his name on the ballot will make him the No. 2 elected official in Texas. If you care anything at all about public education, do you really want that to happen?