Several budgetstrapped school superintendents in Gregg County doubtlessly are grateful that the 19th century drafters of the Texas Constitution created a state Senate as well as a Texas House.
That’s because seven school districts in that primarily rural East Texas county stand to see their educational programs crippled with as much as $28 million in cuts, while their newly elected state representative, David Simpson, persists in doing little more than brewing antigovernment, tea party rhetoric.
On the same weekend that the Longview NewsJournal was reporting the potential effects of spending reductions – including, believe it or not, the elimination of athletics and band programs in one district Simpson was still insisting that the Legislature could bridge its huge revenue shortfall with spending cuts alone.
“The pot is what it is,” he said.
A businessman whose previous political experience was as a small town mayor, Simpson describes himself this way in his official biography: “He passionately supports limiting civil government to its proper role and getting it out of the way of individual liberty and responsibility.”
Simpson obviously is familiar with at least some of the Bill of Rights, but I wonder if he ever has read Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, which states, “It shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of free public schools.”
Producing an adequate, equitable school finance system not only is a “proper role” of state government, it also is a constitutional responsibility. And there is no way the cutsonly approach to budgetsetting can fulfill that responsibility.
The school superintendents, teachers and parents in Gregg County (even tea partiers with kids in the public schools) can be grateful that they also are represented in Austin by a state senator, Kevin Eltife, who is very familiar with his constitutional responsibility and says he is ready to spend at least part of the $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund and find new revenue to avoid gutting public education and other critical services.
Eltife wants to govern. Simpson and a number of other conservative ideologues in the House (and the governor’s office) are still locked in campaign mode.