Day: <span>April 5, 2016</span>

Letting political ideology gut public education


Sam Brownback is not a well-known name in Texas, but he is about as huge an obstacle to public education as, say, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is in the Lone Star State. As governor of Kansas, Brownback already has inflicted great harm on public education in that state and apparently is determined not to stop until he can herd kids into one-room school houses and equip them with slate tablets.

That may be all the ravaged Kansas education budget can afford when he and his legislative cohorts are through trying to repeal the 20th century.

State funding for public education in Kansas has slipped so badly under Brownback’s watch that some schools have closed and several districts ended classes early last year to save money. We can hope that this doesn’t eventually happen in Texas if the Texas Supreme Court reverses a lower court order for the Legislature to enact an improved and constitutional school finance system. The state’s appeal of the lower court decision is still pending before the high court in Austin.

In a similar case in Kansas, The New York Times reported, the Kansas Supreme Court has determined that cuts in education funding violate that state’s constitution, and the court has ordered the state’s public schools to be shut down altogether if the state doesn’t provide more money to poorer districts by June 30.

The Kansas Legislature has enacted a plan to provide more money to those districts. But, facing the possibility of another, more-far reaching decision on school funding, the governor and his conservative legislative cronies – who also are unhappy over some other recent court decisions — are mounting a drive to unseat Supreme Court justices at the polls.

For the governor and his allies, political ideology obviously trumps the separation of powers doctrine that is such an important part of constitutional law in the United States. Sadly, they also are letting their slash-and-burn, small-government ideology gut public education.

If the Texas Supreme Court also orders Texas’ leaders to quit under-funding our public schools — and who knows if it will – our governor, lieutenant governor and many of our legislators are likely to be unhappy as well. But their potential unhappiness is much less important than the future of Texas school children.