When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he cares about children with disabilities — or any other school kids, for that matter – be careful about assuming he actually will do something meaningful for them, because his record screams otherwise.
A Patrick spokesman was asked to respond this week to another Houston Chronicle article about the recently dscovered Texas Education Agency policy that kept tens of thousands of children with disabilities from receiving the special education services they needed in public schools.
“Helping children with disabilities has been a priority for the lieutenant governor even before he was elected to public office, and he was very concerned to learn about prior policies,” the spokesman said in a written statement. “Our office is working very closely with the Commissioner of Education to ensure that students are identified and served appropriately.”
It is true, as the spokesman was careful to point out, that TEA imposed its 8.5 percent cap on special education enrollments before Patrick was ever elected to state office.
But the tight-fisted approach to state spending – regardless of the human cost – that the cap represented has been championed by Patrick since his first term as a state senator in 2007.
In 2011, Patrick voted with the legislative majority to cut $5.4 billion from public schools, including special education. In 2013, he voted against the entire state budget, including all funding for education and every other state service and program, including Child Protective Services. The budget passed despite Patrick’s vote, and yet he also has been expressing concern about thousands of foster children who are vulnerable to mistreatment or neglect, partly because of an under-funded protective services agency.
Patrick can work as closely as he wants with the education commissioner, but if he really wants all the disabled children in Texas to receive the special education services they need, he will see to it that the public education budget is increased next year. More funding also will be needed to protect vulnerable foster children.
Patrick has to prove that children in need really are his priorities, and that will require an about-face from his record.