Leticia Van de Putte

Consider a candidate’s education record, not promises


When Dan Patrick opens his mouth, claiming to support public education, you can be assured that two things will emerge – hot air and an untruth. (Lie is such an ugly word.)

The legitimate, pro-education candidate for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte, has released a new ad, accurately advising that, if you care anything at all about public schools and educational opportunity for every kid, don’t vote for Patrick.

Leticia’s ad (linked below) opens with Patrick talking out of both sides of his mouth during their televised debate last month. On one side of the screen, Patrick is pictured saying, “I’m really concerned about the dropout rate in our inner cities.”

Then on the other side of the screen, he adds, “And so we cut education.”

Patrick remains unabashedly unrepentant for voting in 2011 to slash $5.4 billion from public school budgets. And, he never has expressed any regrets for voting against the entire state budget, including all education funding, in 2013. So, if anyone really thinks Patrick is the least bit concerned about the dropout rate in inner cities – or anywhere else for that matter – you are deluding yourself.

Van de Putte voted against the cuts in 2011 and for the 2013 budget, which partially restored the education funding.

The only education agenda Patrick has is to starve public schools, while siphoning off tax dollars so a small group of cherry-picked students can get private school vouchers or attend corporate charters, where the bottom line is profit, not educational excellence.

If he is elected lieutenant governor and gets his way, the dropout rates in our inner cities – and everywhere else – will rise. And, Patrick will keep shedding crocodile tears.



Patrick outlines plan to gut schools, local governments


I doubt that Dan Patrick has ever had a bad idea that he didn’t try to make worse. First, he was trying to fool voters into thinking that he would lower school property taxes in a “swap” for higher sales taxes, an idea that would have been bad enough for public education. But during last night’s debate of lieutenant governor candidates, he dropped even the pretense of a tax trade.

Now, he has made it clear that he wants to lower school and other local property taxes and abolish or significantly reduce the state’s main business tax (the margins tax) while raising the sales tax only a “penny or two.” In other words, Patrick wants to complete the job of gutting school funding AND cripple budgets for cities, counties and hospital districts, which also rely on the property tax as a major source of revenue. That is what Leticia Van de Putte, Patrick’s opponent, pointed out during the debate, and she was absolutely correct.

A modest increase in the sales tax, which Patrick suggested, wouldn’t come close to closing the huge revenue shortfall that would be left by lowering property taxes and cutting revenue from the margins tax. But it would force Texans to pay more every time they went out to eat or needed to buy new clothes, new furniture, another computer or thousands of other items.

Meanwhile, many teachers would lose their jobs, as would police officers, firefighters and other critical employees we have come to take for granted. Taking Patrick at his word, many neighborhood schools would be forced to close, and thousands of children would be forced into overcrowded classes on unfamiliar campuses farther from home – and with less police and fire protection.

Patrick is an opportunist who would – and does – promise right-wing, anti-government ideologues anything he thinks will help him advance up the public payroll ladder. Wipe out public schools? Sure, no problem, Patrick says, just so we save enough tax dollars to pay for private school vouchers.

Even before entering the lieutenant governor’s race, Patrick was well on the way to torching public education. He voted for the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts in 2011 and voted against the entire state budget, including ALL funding for education, in 2013 – and later lied about “leading” an effort for education funding. That whopper was so bad the Austin American-Statesman, in its PolitiFact column, gave Patrick a “Pants on Fire!” rating.

The only thing Patrick wants to lead is the continuing effort to throw Texas over the cliff, aided and abetted not only by Tea Partiers, but also by people who should know better, including some of the state’s insider business organizations.

Most business people understand the importance of a strong public education system to the state’s economy and business prosperity. But some Austin-based groups, notably the Texas Association of Business (TAB), continue to moan and groan about low test scores while supporting Patrick and questioning the need for additional school revenue, even though thousands of grade school classes exceed the state limit on capacity.

TAB and other Austin insider groups have been supporting education budget-cutters for years because, truth be told, they are more interested in currying favors – low taxes, lax government regulations and protections from consumer lawsuits — than they are in promoting quality classrooms. In that regard, they have found a champion in Dan Patrick. But too bad for the rest of us.


“Swapping” money from education


We have known for a long time that Dan Patrick, if elected lieutenant governor, will continue his attack on public education, and now we know a little more about the hocus-pocus by which he intends to do that.

Patrick emerged from hiding behind the tea counter long enough to announce, at a Texas Tribune-sponsored event in Austin last weekend, that the Legislature should consider a so-called “tax swap” – reducing local school property taxes in exchange for a higher sales tax. There are at least two big problems with that idea.

One, a swap implies an even exchange. So even under the most favorable interpretation, Patrick isn’t proposing any additional money for our under-funded public schools, even though enrollment continues to increase by about 80,000 kids per year. So, that would mean less money to spend on each child’s education.

And, worse, the last time the Legislature enacted a so-called “tax swap” — in 2006 — it dug a $10 billion hole in the public education budget that is still there – on top of the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts that Patrick and the legislative majority approved in 2011.

That’s because the 2006 “tax swap” was a sleight of hand. School property taxes were cut by one-third, a short-term savings that soon disappeared as property values continued to increase. The lost property tax revenue allegedly was replaced by an increase in the cigarette tax and a new business tax, the so-called margins tax. But state leaders intentionally designed the replacement taxes to bring in less revenue than was lost from the property tax cuts, so they could claim they had delivered a net tax “cut.” And, to make matters worse, the new margins tax under-performed.

Consequently, the two-year education budget still has a “structural deficit” of $10 billion. That 2006 law and the 2011 cuts are two major reasons that most school districts sued the state over funding. That lawsuit has resulted in a judge declaring the school funding system inadequate and unconstitutional, and Patrick cannot be trusted with leading the Legislature to fix it.

He voted for the $5.4 billion in school cuts in 2011, he voted against the entire state budget – including a partial restoration of the cuts – in 2013 and now he is proposing an alleged “swap” of taxes that, even under the best circumstances, would further cut per-student funding and likely would be even worse.

Funding per student already has dropped by almost $500 since the 2011 cuts.

Patrick’s Democratic opponent and TSTA’s endorsed candidate, Leticia Van de Putte, has the right idea. She wants to use increased revenue being generated by existing taxes (thanks to a strong Texas economy) to begin restoring the damage to education that Patrick and his fellow ideologues have inflicted.

Patrick is part of the problem. Van de Putte represents a solution.

Guess who voted against all education funding – and more


Anyone who thinks I have been writing too much about Dan Patrick, the snake oil salesman of Texas politics, may want to stop reading now. But remember, folks, this guy is running for what, in some respects, is the most powerful office in state government, and he needs a lot more attention than the mostly peek-a-boo campaign he is running.

Patrick’s latest major transgression — for which his Democratic opponent, Leticia Van de Putte, already has called him out – was claiming credit for restoring most of the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts during the 2013 legislative session. These would be the same cuts he voted for in 2011 and Van de Putte voted against.

In truth, most of the funding was restored in spite of Patrick because he voted against the entire state budget in 2013. That means he voted against all state funding for public education and every other program and service the state has to offer, including the salary for his own services, such as they are, as a state senator.

Patrick voted against funding for every state-supported university in Texas, every health care program, every environmental protection program operated by state government, new highway construction and maintenance, every economic incentive for job creation and every educator’s and state employee’s salary. And the list goes on.

Patrick, who continues to scream “border security,” also voted against something more critical and relevant – domestic security. His vote against the budget also was a vote against continued funding of the highway patrol and other law-enforcement functions of the Department of Public safety, a much more critical concern of law-abiding Texans than the political theater of immigration bashing.

For someone who aspires to hold the state’s No. 2 job, Patrick has demonstrated a strong disrespect for the essence of public service.