The education consequences of electing Ted Cruz


As you may know, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is running for reelection next year, and he will claim to be representing your “best” interests in Washington on just about anything you want to hear, including education. Fortunately, of course, you don’t have to believe him, and you shouldn’t.

For one thing, Cruz voted for that awful tax bill the Senate passed last weekend. (So did Texas Sen. John Cornyn, but he isn’t facing the voters this cycle.) And to make the bill even worse, Cruz sponsored the anti-public education voucher amendment that was added to the measure.

Elections have consequences, folks, and if you are an educator who believed Cruz’s campaign malarkey and voted for him last time, you may want to avoid shooting yourself and your colleagues and students in the foot again next year.

Cruz’s voucher amendment, which passed on a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence, would allow parents to spend as much as $10,000 a year from their special 529 college savings accounts to pay tuition at private K-12 schools. Cruz claimed his amendment would “expand options for parents” and “prioritize the education of the next generation of Americans.”


The new tax break, if it stays in the final version of the bill and becomes law, would primarily benefit wealthier parents while undermining public schools where the vast majority of children in Texas and other states will continue to be educated.

Another bad provision in the bill that could undermine public school funding would curtail the deduction of state and local taxes from the federal income tax returns that you file. The legislative majority in Texas already under-funds our public schools, and this added restriction on federal tax deductions could increase the political incentive of legislators to starve public education even more.

All in all, the Senate tax bill, like its House counterpart, is a blatant scheme to make the richest Americans richer and to heck with just about everyone else. Now, negotiators from the two chambers will meet, mostly in private, to try to reach a compromise to send to President Trump before the end of the year.

The overwhelming majority of Americans will be better off if the effort fails. But if there is going to be a tax bill, educators should demand that one Senate provision remain in the final bill. This provision would allow teachers to deduct as much as $500 a year from their federal income taxes for out-of-pocket expenses on school and classroom supplies.

The present deduction of $250 a year was wiped out in the House version of the bill.



Tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest, promote vouchers


Elections have consequences, and some more of them are showing up in anti-educator and anti-student provisions in the tax bill drafted by the Republican majority in Congress.

Not only would the bill repeal the $250 tax deduction that under-paid teachers are now afforded for purchasing classroom supplies out of their own pockets, it also would kill the deduction that teachers and millions of other Americans have been able to take for interest on their student loans.

The interest deduction has been as much as $2,500 a year, but it would be wiped off the books. That would increase costs for college loan borrowers by as much as $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to the American Council of Education, which represents 1,600 colleges and universities.

The tax bill also would promote a back-door approach to private school vouchers by allowing taxpayers of any income level to set aside as much as $10,000 a year in tax-free accounts for expenses at private K-12 schools. These tax breaks, which would benefit the wealthy more than anyone else, would drain federal dollars from government programs, including public schools, where the vast majority of children will continue to be educated.

All in all, the tax bill is a poorly disguised attempt to further enrich the top 1 percent and corporations at the expense of educators, students, their families and other middle- and lower-income taxpayers. Use the following link to tell  your representative in Congress that you oppose this bill.

Urge your member of Congress to oppose this tax bill

GOP tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest




Straus under attack for promoting Texas instead of the political fringe


A fringe group of Republicans – including super-wealthy right-wingers who want to turn public education and the rest of state government into a cash cow of privatization – are trying to convince local GOP governing committees around the state to censure Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

Straus is a Republican who actually wants to govern, not bully, discriminate or regress, and that’s what this is all about. A sample resolution being peddled by his detractors accuses the speaker of abusing his authority, making a “mockery” of representative government and doing “violence” to the Texas Constitution.


What the right-wing beef really is all about is Straus’ insistence on putting the priorities of all Texans over the narrow goals of a minority of ideologues who have taken over much of the GOP’s governing apparatus and have a disproportionate influence over its primary elections.

For example, the sample resolution blasts Straus for obstructing legislation to spend tax dollars on private school vouchers, an alleged “Republican principle.” In truth, there always has been strong bipartisan opposition to vouchers, which is why the House for several sessions now has killed the legislation.

The fringe element also castigates Straus for opposing and helping to kill the bathroom bill, which would have discriminated against transgender Texans and singled out transgender school children for bullying. Straus considered the bill despicable and, if enacted, a barrier to future economic development. So did hundreds of prominent business leaders throughout the state, including Republicans, and many Republican members of the House.

The resolution also faults Straus for obstructing Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda, including vouchers, the bathroom bill and a fake property tax “relief” bill that wouldn’t have lowered anyone’s property taxes by a dime. The bill, however, would have made it more difficult for local governments to pay for the fire and police protection, safe water supplies and other public services that even fringe ideologues have come to take for granted.

Straus and the House majority passed legislation during both legislative sessions this year that could have led to real cuts in school property taxes by increasing state funding for public education. The bill would have been a down payment on a new school finance system, but it was rejected by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate.

Straus’ approach to school funding and tax cuts is supported by most Texas voters, 79 percent of Republican voters and 86 percent of Democrats, according to bipartisan polling commissioned by TSTA earlier this year.

But Abbott and Patrick continue to spread the lie that Straus killed property tax “relief.” And both have indicated they will support efforts to unseat Straus from the speaker’s office because of his role in defeating vouchers and the bathroom bill as well. Abbott’s agenda is also Patrick’s agenda, a fringe agenda supported by officials who would rather pander than lead.

“When I place my hand on the Bible, and I raise my right hand on the first day of the session, I pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of this state, and not any party convention’s platform,” Straus said.

Or any wishlist concocted by a party’s fringe.





Schools need more state funding, not another study


Sometimes, legislators propose studies to actually try to learn something about a new or complex issue. Sometimes, as the Senate leadership is doing now with school finance, they propose studies to avoid doing the right thing.

Texas’ school finance system has been studied more times than Donald Trump has tweeted a lie….Well, maybe not that many times, but certainly the issue of school funding in Texas has been studied enough over the years to know what needs to be done. The Legislature needs to provide more state resources and a more equitable distribution of those resources among school districts.

Last spring and now during the special session, Speaker Joe Straus and the House have been trying to move in that direction, only to be blocked by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate majority. The latest school finance legislation approved by the House is not perfect. It would provide an additional $1.8 billion for school funding during this budget period through an accounting maneuver instead of dipping into the $10 billion Rainy Day Fund. But it would be a start in the right direction that could be continued and strengthened with improved state appropriations during the next regular session in 2019.

But Senate leaders, whose primary interest in public schools is how to privatize them, beginning with school vouchers, has again slammed the door. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor rejected the House plan as a “political fix” and called instead for a commission to study current school funding.

Another study, however, would delay financial assistance for schools while Texas remains in the lower tier of states in school funding. Meanwhile, enrollment will continue to increase by about 80,000 children a year, and school property taxes will continue to increase.

It doesn’t take another study for legislators to know that the state’s share of school funding has plunged from 67 percent in the mid-1980s to 38 percent now. And it doesn’t take another study to know that this buck-passing by the legislative majority is the main reason local property taxes continue to climb.

But there is another reason Senate leaders want to “study” school funding some more. They want to regroup on their No. 1 education priority – school vouchers and other privatization schemes – and try again to ram them down the House’s throat in 2019, complete with the blessings of a “blue ribbon” study panel that would include few, if any, teachers.

That would be a political hoax.