When excuses about school funding fail, some people lie
If you really want to do something, even if it is difficult, you try to do it. If you don’t want to do something, even if it is important, you try to avoid it with one excuse or another and hope it goes away. If you are publicly put on the spot about your procrastination, then you may squirm, mislead or even lie.
Clearly, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, doesn’t want to do anything to improve education funding for Texas’ 5 million public school students. So, the first sentence above doesn’t apply to him. He has chosen the second route.
When state District Judge John Dietz issued a strongly worded opinion declaring that the state’s school finance system was inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional, Abbott immediately made plans to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.
With a little luck, Abbott figures, the Supreme Court eventually will overturn Dietz’s ruling, to the delight of the legislative majority and of Abbott himself, whose campaign promises to improve public education contrast sharply with the fact that he continues to defend $5.4 billion in school budget cuts. Or, an appeal, at the very least, would give Abbott some relief before Election Day from pesky questions about how he, as governor, would address a school finance issue he has no intention of trying to address.
When Democratic nominee Wendy Davis asked Abbott during last week’s gubernatorial debate whether he would try to settle the school lawsuit, Abbott replied that a law enacted by the Legislature in 2011 prohibited the attorney general from seeking a settlement.
In truth, that law simply provides that the Legislature would have to approve a settlement negotiated by the attorney general. The law does nothing to prohibit Abbott from seeking a settlement. Nor, does it require him to continue wasting tax dollars on an appeal while Texas school children continue to be shortchanged of the resources they need to succeed.
Abbott either deliberately lied during the televised debate, or he isn’t competent enough to know the state law governing his office.
Davis, as governor, will advocate for an adequate and fair funding system for all students and take advantage of increased tax collections in a strong economy to pay for it.
Last week, the comptroller’s revenue estimator told the House Ways and Means Committee that sales tax revenue increased by 5.5 percent last year and is expected to experience similar, strong growth this year. That means billions of additional tax dollars for state needs. Additionally, the Rainy Day Fund is at $8.4 billion and is expected to reach double digits within a few more months.
Financially, there is no excuse for the state not to begin working on a strong school funding plan now. Abbott lacks the political will to either lead on the issue or get out of the way.