You may not recall this, but Dan Patrick once referred to himself as an “education evangelist.” Yes, that Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor whose educational track record so far this session includes three potential body blows to Texas’ public education system.
First, he proposes a state budget that would continue to underfund public schools. Then, he advocates for a private school voucher bill to take more money from public schools now. And, finally, he trots out a bill to drain even more money from schools for years to come.
Education evangelist? I think not.
The voucher bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee Tuesday, and TSTA President Noel Candelaria joined many other public education advocates presenting common-sense arguments against it. A committee vote was postponed.
But Patrick’s long-term plan to starve public education – and a host of other important state services – was approved the same day by the full Senate, 23-7. This measure, Senate Bill 17 by Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson, would gradually reduce the state’s franchise tax, an important source of state revenue for schools and other programs. This tax was enacted by the Legislature in 2006 to partially replace school revenue lost when lawmakers ordered cuts in local property taxes.
The legislative majority already reduced the franchise tax by one-fourth two years ago. Senate Bill 17 would not cut the tax again this year, but it would keep reducing it in the future, whenever state revenue grew beyond a certain rate. Instead of having that extra revenue to play catch up on school funding, the legislation would keep the squeeze on public schools.
Fotunately, Patrick and his Senate allies won’t necessarily have the final say. They have to convince a majority of the House to approve their ideological recipe for disaster, and the House will offer some resistance. Perhaps it will offer a lot of resistance, but only if educators and parents who value their neighborhood schools keep contacting their state representatives and demanding a realistic approach to lawmaking.
Urge your state representatives to spend part of the $12 billion Rainy Day Fund to improve school funding now. And ask them to vote against Senate Bill 3, the voucher bill, and against Senate Bill 17, a tax cut that the future of Texas cannot afford. If you don’t know who your state representative is, click on the following link, fill in your home address. Then under district type, click on House. It will tell you who your state representative is and how to contact him or her.
In an interview with the Associated Press in 2013, when he was still a state senator, Patrick said: “You do become a little bit of an education evangelist because you know this works and you know we must do all we can to make sure every student has an opportunity.”
This was two years after Patrick voted to slash $5.4 billion from public schools, and it was the same year he voted against the entire state budget, including all funding for education, border security and every other state program and service. He didn’t know what students need then, and he doesn’t now.