Month: <span>August 2017</span>

Abbott, Patrick: Squeeze schools, cry about property taxes


Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick want Texas voters to believe their hearts ache over the size of your local property taxes, but don’t believe them. These guys are not the solution. They – and legislators who think like them – are the problem.

As The Texas Tribune article linked below makes clear, property taxes are high because state school funding for public schools is too low. State funding for schools is too low because leaders like Abbott and Patrick refuse to invest adequate resources in education, preferring to pass the burden to local taxpayers.

Citing figures from the Legislative Budget Board, the Tribune article by Ross Ramsey notes that the state’s share of public education costs has dropped from about 45 percent 10 years ago to about 38 percent now.

“Had legislators and budget writers kept the state’s contribution at 45 percent, local school districts across Texas – and their property taxpayers – would have spent $18.6 billion less over that decade than they actually did,” the story points out.

A major contributor to that extra $18.6 billion burden on local taxpayers was the $5.4 billion cut in school funding from the state in 2011, for which Patrick, as a member of the legislative majority, voted. Also remember that a huge chunk of the $18.6 billion has been sent to school districts where the money wasn’t collected under an inadquate and outdated Robin Hood school finance law that Abbott, as attorney general, defended in court.

And, during the regular session this past spring, both Abbott and Patrick resisted efforts, initiated by Speaker Joe Straus and the House, to tap into the $10 billion Rainy Day Fund to increase school funding. Straus is trying again during the special session, but so far Abbott and Patrick are resisting.

The governor and lieutenant governor instead are trying to provide property tax “relief” by putting new limits on the ability of city and county governments to raise property taxes for their residents’ needs. They are deliberately ignoring the real property tax problem and their role in creating it.

Abbott’s and Patrick’s version of property tax “relief” is kind of like Abbott’s version of an unfunded teacher pay “raise.” Both are designed to deceive.


Educators and students need adult leadership in Austin


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.