There are three distinct ideas of leadership on display at the state Capitol during this summer’s special session, and educators and their students will be directly impacted by which idea prevails.
First, there is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s idea of leadership, which is more akin to bullying, a bombastic, ideological-driven style of bullying that panders to fear and prejudice. It produces things like the so-called “bathroom” bill that has nothing to do with public safety but, if enacted, will promote more ridicule and bullying of transgender Texans, including vulnerable children in public schools.
Then, there is Gov. Greg Abbott, whose idea of leadership is not to be outflanked on the political right by Dan Patrick. This is why Abbott added the bathroom bill to the special session agenda, as well as private school vouchers and several other ideological proposals that play well among right-wing voters in the Republican primary but aren’t priorities for most mainstream Texans. It also is why the governor refuses to spend additional state money on our under-funded public schools and instead tries to fool educators by proposing a fake “pay raise” without including any source of state funding.
Patrick has told Abbott publicly at least twice now that he has no intention of challenging the governor for his job, but obviously Abbott isn’t taking any chances with his political career. He prefers instead to take chances with Texas’ future.
Finally and most importantly, there is the realistic, conservative leadership exercised by Speaker Joe Straus, who recognizes the bathroom bill as the hateful piece of garbage that it is and opposes vouchers. Instead, he wants to start the process of increasing education funding by tapping into the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s $10 billion savings account, which Abbott and Patrick want to hoard.
At stake are real teacher pay raises as well as relief from rising health care costs for retired educators. An education bill passed by the Senate ignores active teachers and offers retirees a temporary reduction in health care costs by delaying a critical payment to an under-funded Medicaid system. That is like temporarily robbing Peter to pay Paul and telling both of them to trust you. Educators, both active and retired, deserve better.
After the Senate’s frenetic action last week in passing a bunch of bad bills, including the bathroom legislation, the focus now goes to the House – and its adult leadership.