Gov. Greg Abbott is continuing his preelection, “pro-public education” tour, making promises that most Texas educators and parents want to hear but aren’t likely to ever come to pass as long as Abbott remains governor.
He had a recent oped in The Dallas Morning News, which may have run in other newspapers as well, carrying the headline, “Gov. Abbott: Texas must boost school funding.” Yes, Texas certainly needs to do that, but it won’t happen unless we retire Abbott.
Let’s take a look at what the governor says in his oped and contrast that with his record:
What Abbott says now: Citing the Texas Supreme Court’s latest ruling on the issue, he says the school funding system needs “transformational, top-to-bottom reforms.”
Abbott’s record: As attorney general, he went to court to defend the current, inadequate funding system, which the Supreme Court upheld, despite its tough rhetoric. And as governor last year, he and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick slammed the door on a bill approved by the House to begin reforming the finance system and increase education funding by $1.8 billion.
What Abbott says now: “Just throwing more money at a flawed system isn’t going to fix anything.”
Abbott’s record: State government has never “thrown” money at education, and Abbott hasn’t even sprinkled money on schools. The moldy, “throwing more money” line is older than Abbott and has always been used as a political excuse to under-fund public schools.
What Abbott says now: “We need to pay our best teachers more.” (More than $100,000, he says.)
Abbott’s record: He hasn’t paid any teacher “more.” He floated out a fake “teacher pay raise” before a special legislative session last year but never proposed a way to pay for it, and he still hasn’t, despite all his talk about six-figure teacher salaries. And those “best teachers” he is talking about singling out now would be determined by STAAR test scores. Meanwhile, average teacher pay in Texas is $7,300 less than the national average.
What Abbott says now: “We need to…reduce the burden of skyrocketing property taxes.” To help do that, he proposes forcing local governments to lower tax rates as property values rise.
Abbott’s record: School property taxes are rising mainly because of rising property values. But school boards would be able to reduce property tax rates now and lower the overall property tax load if the state increased its share of school funding. Instead, Abbott and his legislative allies have consistenly under-funded public education, and school boards can’t cut tax rates. So the local share of the Foundation School Program has continued to rise during Abbott’s term as governor and is projected to hit 62 percent this year, while the state’s share drops to 38 percent, according to the Legislative Budget Board.
What Abbott says now: We must “ensure (educators) retirements are sound and health care costs are contained.”
Abbott’s record: Texas’ rate of contribution to TRS pensions is one of the lowest in the country. And Abbott and his allies have repeatedly ignored educators’ pleas to increase the state’s contribution to health care premiums for school employees.
“The state must increase its responsibility for education funding,” Abbott writes in his oped.
That has been obvious throughout the governor’s entire term, but he has never proposed a concrete way to do that and instead has always supported restrictions on state spending.
Has Abbott experienced a pre-election conversion?
No. But he is trying to get your vote, and if you believe him now, I suspect you also believe in fairy tales.
Vote Education First!