It was coincidental, I guess, that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rammed his education-squeezing version of a state budget through the Senate on the same day that Texas school kids began taking the stress-producing, money-wasting STAAR exams. Whatever the eventual STAAR outcomes, the children and their teachers will end up doing their jobs a lot better than Patrick and most of the senators did theirs.
The Senate budget is shameful. At Patrick’s behest, the Senate essentially took an extra $1.8 billion from local property taxpayers and did little more to address the needs of under-funded school districts that are growing, collectively, by 80,000 to 85,000 new students every school year. Senators left about $12 billion of taxpayer money sitting unspent in the Rainy Day Fund, because Patrick would rather brag about being tight-fisted than increase resources to improve educational opportunities for 5.3 million school children – or improve health care or other public services.
The next chapter in Patrick’s attack on public education will be Senate action on his pet bill to drain more funding from public schools for private school vouchers.
Fortunately, the next step in the budget process is the House, where the leadership actually wants to govern and believes the emergency facing public schools requires tapping into the Rainy Day Fund. The final version of the budget will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee, either later this spring or in a special legislative session in the summer.
Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, the official sponsor of Patrick’s budget, noted during the budget debate that the “most important function of this Legislature…is to educate our children.”
But does she really believe that? You couldn’t prove it by her budget.
Nelson also criticized previous legislative sessions for putting “band-aid after band-aid after band-aid” on the school finance system without doing much to improve it. She was mostly correct about the band-aids, but at least her predecessors were putting the band-aids on. She and Patrick are removing the band-aids, and schools are bleeding.