Monthly Archives: July 2017

Taking teachers for granted with a fake pay “raise”


The fake teacher “pay raise” bill that the full Senate will vote on this week, perhaps today, is a product of an alternate universe, where trickery trumps reality and inhabitants believe they can take teachers’ votes for granted.

After all, Gov. Abbott, Lt.Gov. Patrick and the Senate majority – the lead inhabitants of this alternate universe — have been ignoring the needs of educators for years, and they are still in Austin.

Maybe that sense of hubris is what promoted Sen. Jane Nelson, the sponsor of the fake pay raise bill, to criticize House members for wanting to dip into the $10 BILLION Rainy Day Fund to pay for a real pay raise for educators. She called that a “false promise” and short-term solution.

So, how do Nelson and Dan Patrick propose “paying” for a pay “raise” for teachers and reducing health care costs for retirees?

First, they would put off a teacher pay raise until 2019 and then try to force local property taxpayers – who already pay for most education funding – to come up with the money. Then, they would use an accounting trick to delay payment to an under-funded health care system to allegedly give retired educators some limited, temporary relief.

The false promise, folks, is coming from the Senate leadership, and apparently the governor approves of the trickery because he hasn’t proposed an additional dime in state funding for teacher pay or education either.

The Rainy Day Fund – it’s the taxpayer’s money, not Dan Patrick’s or Greg Abbott’s – is $10 billion and growing. That is more than enough to raise teacher pay, improve health care for retirees and have lots of money left in the treasury.

It’s a real solution, not a sleight of hand designed to fool people on the eve of an election year.



Education, not ideology, drives business


Even when Texas was leading the nation in job creation while Rick Perry was governor, the political hype about the so-called “Texas miracle” was overblown, particularly since Texas also led the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance and poverty was high. Living in Texas was anything but a miraculous experience for millions of people, but with low regulations and low taxes, many businesses loved to set up shop and expand here.

Millions of Texans still remain uninsured, partly because Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott both refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And under Abbott, even the bloom has faded from the “Texas miracle” rose. Texas has dropped to 39th among the states in job growth, the gross state product has flattend out and its unemployment rate is higher than the national average for the first time in a long time, as Richard Parker writes in an oped, linked below, for The Dallas Morning News.

California, meanwhile, a state that Abbott often ridicules as too “liberal” and “anti-business,” has lower unemployment.

Parker blames much of the problem on the fact that Abbott and others who have taken over the Texas Republican Party are more interested in promoting “dogma” than economic development. (I would call it right-wing ideology.) This is why Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick forced a more-than-willing Abbott to call the Legislature into the current special session to pass a bill to regulate bathroom use by transgender individuals. Abbott and Patrick also will try to override the wishes of local voters by forcing more micro-management on cities, where, Parker notes, real economic growth is created.

Much of the business community strongly opposes the bathroom bill because it is a piece of discriminatory trash that will drive businesses, multimillion-dollar sports events and other economic development opportunities away from Texas.

Regulatory and tax policy help determine where businesses move and expand. But, as Parker points out, so do other factors, including availability of capital, quality of life, public infrastructure and, of course, education. State support of public schools has deteriorated under both Perry and Abbott to the point that Texas spends $2,500 less per student than the national average and $6,300 less than the national average in teacher pay.

As an afterthought to the bathroom bill and other ideological priorities, Abbott has added school finance and teacher pay to the special session’s agenda. But it remains to be seen how committed he is to either issue, since so far he hasn’t proposed any additional state funding.

Parker suggests that Abbott and his fellow ideologues aren’t talking “about economic growth because they don’t know anything about it – except maybe how to stand in its way.”

That is a pretty good description, at least, of their stance toward public schools.

Abbott, Patrick trying to hide their true, anti-education colors


As I hope most of you have figured out by now, neither Gov. Greg Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has any intention of raising teacher pay or retiree benefits during the special legislative session because neither is proposing any increase in education funding. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Abbott and Patrick have three education-related goals this session, which may prove to be one of the meanest gatherings of the Texas Legislature in recent memory. All three are bad news, and none has anything to do with teacher pay.

First, they want to ridicule and bully transgender students and educators with the discriminatory, divisive and unnecessary bathroom bill. Second, they want to peddle the voucher scam again. And, finally, they will try once more to weaken the political influence of teachers over education policy with a dues deduction bill to thwart the right of educators to spend their modest paychecks – their own money — the way they see fit.

The governor and the lieutenant governor concocted their eleventh-hour “pay raise” schemes for a reason. They are trying to cover their bankrupt public education records on the eve of reelection campaigns in which both will be trying again to fool parents and educators into thinking they actually give a rat’s tail about public schools or the people who work in them.

There are genuine teacher pay raise proposals on the horizon, proposals that actually would use state funds to boost teacher pay. Some legislators believe the state should tap into the Rainy Day Fund to pay for it.

The Rainy Day money is there, more than $10 billion, according to the state comptroller. That’s enough to cover a teacher pay raise, health care improvements and other critical public needs that Abbott and Patrick have persisted in ignoring.

The Rainy Day Fund is a state savings account that was intended to meet emergencies, and school finance, including teacher pay, is a growing emergency. But Abbott and Patrick want to keep your tax money bottled up to use as ideological bragging rights with voters who want to shrink government and privatize education.

Speaker Joe Straus recognizes the importance of increasing public education funding. Straus also opposes the bathroom bill and already is under attack from the Abbott and Patrick camps.

Getting a teacher pay raise or any additional education funding out of this special session will be difficult. If it happens, the push will come from Straus and the House, not from Abbott and Patrick.




Did a school voucher pay for an abortion? Yes or no, it’s still a mess


The intended consequences of vouchers – transferring state tax dollars from under-funded public schools to private schools – are bad enough, but the unintended consequences can be a political and fiscal disaster. A voucher program in Arizona is so bad and unaccountable to taxpayers that one recipient was even indicted for using her family’s voucher money to purchase a high-definition TV and pay for an abortion.

For those who might point out that Texas isn’t Arizona, I also would point out that Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick share the school privatization ideology of the Arizona leaders who created and expanded the voucher debacle in the desert.

I also would note that the voucher program in Arizona began as a program limited to families with disabled children, the same kind of legislation that Abbott wants the Legislature to enact during the special session that convenes next week. The program later was expanded in Arizona, while oversight was ignored.

And anyone who thinks oversight in Texas would be any better had better think again. The under-funded oversight of critical public programs in this state – from Child Protective Services to toll roads, data systems and other privatization schemes – has a history of failure.

The Arizona Republic articles linked below detail much of the waste and folly associated with arming families with debit cards loaded with taxpayer dollars. Arizona has even been unable or unwilling to identify which private schools are benefiting the most from the tax-paid program.

“We could have state dollars going to a school teaching 2 plus 2 equals 5, and there is nothing that we can do about it,” one critic of the program commented.

It’s a wonder apparently that the state even noticed the woman who used her voucher debit card to buy the big-screen TV, as well as a smart phone and a couple of computer tablets, from Walmart and then spend a few hundred more dollars at a family planning clinic. That led to the accusation of an abortion and an indictment for theft and fraud.

I don’t know how that case turned out, but the voucher program in Arizona is still a mess. And it’s a mess waiting to happen in Texas, unless the House – which soundly rejected vouchers on a bipartisan vote during the regular session – continues to hold its ground for public schools and taxpayers.


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