Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has established himself as a tepid supporter of public education.
Which gives me just a bit of pause as I watch the Texas Senate – where Patrick presides as the leader of the upper legislative chamber – move a bill that gives Texas public school teachers a $5,000 annual pay increase. The Senate Education Committee has approved the legislation, sending on to the full Senate for its consideration and – I am hoping – a vote.
I’ll be honest. The raise is a wonderful idea. Texas needs to do much more to support public education and the educators who help parents guide their children through their formative years.
I’m just a bit dubious about Lt. Gov. Patrick, the sometimes-fiery Republican from Houston. He has long been a champion of vouchers, which takes public money from public education and funnels it to enable parents to pay for private education.
Senate Bill 3 has a bipartisan group of senators who have signed on as sponsors, which I reckon tells Patrick plenty about the support the notion of paying teachers more for their work has among legislators.
Patrick is saying the right things. He said of SB 3: “It will provide an immediate financial boost for teaches, assist in retaining good teachers, and recruit the best and the brightest to this critical profession. I will be moving this bill to the floor and out of the Senate at the earliest possible date.”
To which I say, “Good!”
Texas, I am sad to note, fares poorly at many levels of public education. Our students perform below the national average on standardized testing; their reading and math schools also fall below the national average; our students’ SAT scores don’t reach the national average; our dropout rate exceeds the U.S. average.
And we don’t pay our teachers enough. Indeed, I am unsure how we quantify how much we should pay good teachers who earn the respect of students, their parents and their administrators. Public education remains a priceless commodity – but only if our students do well and we compensate our teachers fairly and equitably to educate them.
I’ll also be candid about one more aspect of this legislation. I simply don’t trust Dan Patrick to hold firm to his stated commitment to provide public school teachers with the raise they deserve.
I want him to prove me wrong.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.