Texas is experiencing Stockholm syndrome

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Education, Had Enough Yet?, Public Schools, Right Wing Lies, Special Session, Teachers, The Budget, The Lege at 10:45 am by wcnews

This is what the reporting on defunding public education has become. If this isn’t brilliant spin, More state funds than expected, then what is? Millions of dollars in cuts now means more money?

With state legislators predicting a $4 billion cut - instead of the original $10 billion cut - to public education, Round Rock ISD will now lose approximately $20 million in state funding from its 2011-12 budget. [Emphasis added]

Losing $20 million dollars is somehow getting more funds than expected? Of course that much money was never cut, or going to be cut. It was a threat. And after initially being threatened with an $10 - 8 billion in cuts, $4 billion seems like a drop in the bucket. Many of us in Texas, those in public education in particular, and the media too is seems, are experiencing something similar to Stockholm syndrome for our budget captors.

But, of course, this was part of the GOP’s spin all along, a Texas-style “Shock Doctrine”. With a “projected” $27 billion shortfall, if the GOP was able to cut less than that and balance the budget, they would try to spin that as “more” instead of less and that is exactly what they are trying to do.

Charles Butt, chief executive officer of the H.E. Butt Grocery Co., called on Perry to invest more in education.

“For Texas to cut $4 billion from public school funding now, when a better educated Texas can be a bulwark against future recessions, seems unwise, not conservative and in fact very risky for the state,” Butt wrote in a letter Thursday.

Save Texas Schools, which organized a rally this spring that drew thousands, has another event planned today at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Few legislators will probably be in the building because only one committee is scheduled to meet; both the House and Senate are out until Monday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the state isn’t cutting education funding, noting that the dollar figure will be higher for 2012-13 than it is in the current budget. The state, however, is not fully funding the schools according to the law. [Emphasis added]

Because they are not fully funding schools according to the law, is why they need to change the law. Therefore if Dewhurst, and those in his party, were fully funding schools we wouldn’t be in special session right now. Got it? They are also trying to justify not using the Economic Stabilization Fund, aka the Rainy Day Fund, by saying it’s already spent. As this report shows, Additional funding for schools unlikely.

Republicans leaders shut down hopes of spending more of the Rainy Day Fund repeatedly on Thursday, saying the fund needs to be preserved because of other future obligations the budget did not fund.

The spending plan the Legislature approved during its grueling 140-day regular session, which ended Monday, underfunds caseload growth in the state-federal Medicaid program by an estimated $4.8 billion and relies on a more than $2 billion payment deferral to public schools. That’s roughly $7 billion dollars the Legislature knows it must eventually pay.


Rep. John Zerwas, a Republican from Simonton, argued in committee Thursday that by delaying those obligations, the Legislature has essentially already spent the Rainy Day Fund.

“My position on that is that the fiscally responsible thing to do is to have some amount of money to help us pay that back at the end of the next biennium,” Zerwas said.

Another term for that is deficit spending. And haven’t we been told we don’t do that in Texas? At this time, at least, Zerwas is the only member of the Texas GOP that is coping to that plea. But the GOP is intentionally shorting public education and health care, so they can make these cuts permanent as GOP state Sen. Dan Patrick wants.

The reason all of this is so bad for Texas long-term is because of what Butt said above, it’s very risky for Texas. After re-reading the classic Depression-era John Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath it’s easy to see many similarities between it and what is going on right now. As the number of teaching jobs shrink, the number of available teachers will rise. The GOP will then use it as an opportunity in the near future to cut teacher salaries.

Here’s part of R.G. Ratcliffe’s post from last week that shows a little of what I”m talking about in regards to hostage taking and the Stockholm syndrome.

“I’m trying to make a statement that cutting $4 billion in public education funds is unacceptable,” [Wendy] Davis said in defense of her actions.

She’s right. The cut should be unacceptable. But most of the state’s pro-education groups were ready to accept it. Teacher groups had been relieved that they had gotten out of the session without legislation to ease a district’s ability to fire or furlough them or make them work in larger classrooms. Most public school administrators were willing to accept the cuts as more reasonable that the originally proposed $8 billion slaughter. Save Texas Schools had had an anemic rally on May 21 that convinced many Republican lawmakers that the public at large did not care as much about public school funding as their Tea Party constituents did about cutting it. And Raise Your Hand—noted for the Tommy Lee Jones television commercial about how Texas ranked 44th in the nation for per-pupil spending—ended the session asking its members to support public education by backing the Senate’s $4 billion in cuts. It was thin gruel, but the Texas education establishment was ready to eat what was put in front of them and dare not ask for more.

An unacceptable cut, that, excepting a few, is being accepted. Even a few short years ago a plan defunding public education like this would have sent parents, teachers, administrators, Democrats, and many Republicans into a full on assault of the politicians wanting to take apart such a key component of democracy. But in this day and age where the SCLM/media is telling us that cuts to education are actually more money, it’s barely even making a ripple in the news cycle.

What the Texas GOP is trying to do, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone they’ve been saying it for decades, is to fundamentally change, or end, our current form of government. They believe in a plutocracy. They don’t believe in public education, they believe a for profit corporate system would do a better job of educating our children. They don’t believe in collecting taxes to pay for roads, they believe corporations, foreign and domestic, should build our roads. They don’t believe in social insurance, aka Medicare, they believe insurance corporations can do a better job. And that formula could be applied to anything the government currently does to protect the people of Texas.

Most Texans know that if the above was to happen only the few would prosper and the rest of us would be left out in the cold. Publicly funded education is not a priority for Republicans in Texas. Just look at what they say and are planning to do, School bill a tipping point for Texas.

The GOP leadership has downplayed the impact of this change, arguing that lawmakers have always made public schools a priority. But the very reason this school finance bill is necessary is to free the state from owing about $4 billion under current formulas.

To some, including Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, this is sound policy. Last week, he called the school finance proposal “a true cut in an entitlement.”

Note the use of that dirty word — entitlement — as if public education is some kind of welfare, not the underpinning of democracy envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.

This school finance bill is a tipping point for the Texas public education system. If the state’s obligation to local schools is no longer carved in statute, public education funding becomes vulnerable to last-minute budget balancing by 10 lawmakers on a conference committee. If they decide to trim a couple of billion from education, the other 171 members of the Legislature have little voice.

Is the school bill really a tipping point for Texas? That can’t be said with any certainty. The people of Texas must break free from their captors before any of this will change. As long as too many of us see fighting back as scarier than taking the scraps we are given nothing will change.

It’s long past time for the people in this state to say enough. An austerity budget like the Texas GOP is again ramming through in the special session will only help the rich and corporations, and continue to hurt everyone else.

Further Reading:
House Appropriations follows Senate, passes SB1.
From school districts to court docket.

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