As the next president of the United States tries to figure out what his new job will be all about, Texas already has a leader who is prepared to move the state forward. And one of his top priorities will be public education.
You already know I am not talking about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, whose idea of “leadership” is to fan the flames of an ideology that will keep Texas in reverse. I am not talking about Gov. Greg Abbott either. Living in a perpetual state of fear that he will be outflanked on the right by either Patrick or Ted Cruz is not leadership.
The real leader in Texas right now is House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican who actually believes in governing, in trying to improve the lives of all Texans, instead of selling snake oil.
Two days after last week’s election, Straus was in his hometown San Antonio, laying out his priorities for the upcoming legislative session in an address to Hispanic business leaders.
“I believe in limited government. I also believe in functional government, that public services should be delivered well with efficiency and accountability,” he said, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman. “Emotional, divisive issues get the attention, and they get the television ratings. But remember, state government is really about basics – education, public safety, infrastructure.”
The speaker said his top priorities were protecting Texas children at risk of abuse and neglect, reforming school finance, repairing the mental health system, securing online data and promoting business.
Unlike Abbott and Patrick, Straus has made it clear that he wants to improve the school funding system. About all Abbott has had to say about school finance was to applaud the Texas Supreme Court for reversing a lower court order for more funding.
Patrick’s idea of addressing education funding is to take tax dollars from under-funded public schools and spend the money to help a small group of families send their children to private schools. Patrick also promises to keep peeking (figuratively, anyway) into school bathrooms, discriminating against transgender kids who pose a threat to absolutely no one.
If educators and students are to see real progress in funding for their classrooms, it will be only after Straus and a House coalition of Republicans and Democrats who truly value public schools have taken the lead during the legislative session. That’s what adult leaders do.