After losing badly on a series of voucher votes in the Texas House, voucher advocate Randan Steinhauser, of Texans for Educational Opportunity, tweeted, “Primary season can’t get here fast enough.” Despite having diametrically opposing viewpoints on vouchers, in this case, Steinhauser and I agree. This is a fundamental truth of our democracy—you get what you elect.
I have spent this legislative session watching as senators who claimed to respect teachers and support public education voted to take away educators’ rights and to privatize public education. If you elect candidates who cater to a small but powerful base that cares primarily about decreasing the burden on the wealthy to fund K-12 education—and who focus on immediate individual gain to the complete exclusion of the long-term public good—then that’s what you will get. You will get legislators who vote to privatize public education in any and every way possible. You will get legislators who vote to cut funding for public education while sending billions of dollars to their political backers’ organizations. You will get legislators who are more interested in containing costs than in ensuring adequate healthcare for retired teachers. And you will get legislators who care more about money managers and the owners of for-profit teacher mills than about providing educators with either a secure retirement or quality preparation.
If you follow the electoral path above, you will get Dan Patrick’s Senate.
On the other hand, if you elect legislators who want to ensure that we invest responsibly in public infrastructure, including the public education system, that, too, is what you will get. You will get legislators who work to fix the school finance system so that schools are more adequately and equitably funded in a way that reduces taxpayers’ burden. You will get legislators who are dedicated to finding a more fair, accurate, and holistic way to measure campus and district performance. You will get legislators who are committed to improving services for students with disabilities without using them to promote a voucher system that both underfunds those students and strips them of their rights under federal law. You will get legislators who understand the importance of public education both for the state’s economy and for individual students. You will get increased prosperity for everyone.
Electing these legislators will give you Joe Straus’s House.
The dynamic described above is not about partisan politics. Both the Senate and the House are overwhelmingly dominated by Republican majorities. But there is a clear divide between true fiscal conservatives—who understand the value of responsible investment in public systems that produce long-term returns in the prosperity of our state—and self-aggrandizers who use fear and discontent to push short-term cost cutting and diversion of public dollars to private cronies.
The question that remains is not what state we want. Texans want good roads, adequate and affordable water, reliable electricity, and a strong public education system. The only question that remains is this: Will we hand the reins of state government over to legislators who will take care of those public priorities, or will we continue to let a privileged few buy the right to replace the public’s agenda with their own?