Word that the clown princess of the tea party movement, Sarah Palin, is coming to Texas tomorrow to campaign for Ted Cruz in the Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate is still another reminder that the health of Texas’ public schools isn’t even an afterthought in that race. Despite the right-wing interest and media attention the race is generating, choosing between Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is a choice between Tweedle Bad and Tweedle Worse, and I am not sure which is which.
Cruz is full of right-wing wind and rhetoric and is a darling of voters who think government should disappear and education be turned over to profiteers and home-schoolers. He lacks a record of elected service and, if we are lucky, will never have one.
Dewhurst, of course, does have a record of elected service as presiding officer of the Texas Senate, but he hasn’t been a leader, certainly not for public education. He had enough votes in the state Senate during last year’s legislative session to insist that the state spend more of the Rainy Day Fund to soften budget cuts to the public schools. But pandering to the tea party-types in anticipation of his U.S. Senate race, he cratered and let Gov. Perry and the House majority slash $5.4 billion from public education while leaving more than $7 billion (at least) of Rainy Day funds unspent. In an appearance in Houston earlier this week, Perry called Dewhurst his “faithful, loyal conservative partner.”
While Cruz and Dewhurst are hogging all the media attention trying to out-crazy each other among Republican primary voters, someone who really supports the public schools and has the record to prove it, Paul Sadler, is in a runoff race for the Democratic nomination for the same U.S. Senate seat. Sadler, a former chairman of the Public Education Committee in the Texas House, has been out of office for several years, but while in Austin he was a successful leader for teacher pay raises, health care and other education improvements. He has the strong support of TSTA and, if he wins the Democratic nod next week, will offer voters in November a far superior choice to either Cruz or Dewhurst.
Although the public schools are primarily driven and funded by state and local governments, the federal government is playing an increasingly active role in educational policy and budgets. So, choosing the next U.S. senator will make a difference for Texas classrooms.
Before I forget, and lest anyone think I am giving Sarah Palin too much credit, I will acknowledge that the tea party movement has at least two clown princesses – Michele Bachmann being the second – and too many clown princes to count. And before this goofy Republican runoff is over next week, who knows? Bachmann also may join the parade of right-wing celebrities trooping to Texas with anything but strong public schools on their minds.
Pray for the public schools, folks, and pray that Sadler is on the ballot in November. And vote for him.