Opinion: Should a principled Texas conservative vote for Dan Patrick?
Friday night lights, public education, and the American dream can be our guide.
There’s nothing like Friday Night Lights in Texas. Where else can you see communities fill up stadiums to the tens of thousands to cheer on and encourage our youth? Anyone who has played on those fields knows how thundering stadiums of cheering fans can give you the extra motivation to succeed. Colleges from around the country recognize this system as a premier producer of athletes and they descend on our towns to recruit year after year.
Our public schools should work the same way. Robust public schools motivate students and provide them with the tools they need to succeed so employers will seek to hire them. Public education available to all is the bedrock of the American dream. The formula is fairly simple: support for public education is investment in the future of our country.
It was a common tenet in the business-oriented Republican party not long ago. George H.W. Bush’s insistence on being the “ Education President “ compelled his next three predecessors to make significant strides to bolster public education against often fierce opposition. Republicans used to lead on this issue.
Today, Texas GOP leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick aim to defund public education and subsidize private schools with public money. Parents using their own money to send their kids to private school is great and is the free market at work, but we all know what happens when the government subsidizes something — the public good worsens, and the private good gets too expensive for the people government was trying to help in the first place. The prime example exists now at the university level. Look no further than the effects of government-funded loans and scholarships to private Ivy League schools. In other words, as government pours in money, elite schools jack up their tuition even more.
So why do leaders like Dan Patrick fight so hard for a policy that hurts so many? Unfortunately, the billionaire-funded campaign against public education has its roots in the same place Dan Patrick finds his campaign funds.
Fortunately, there are principled Republicans in this state putting their constituents and the good of our communities first. State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) put his foot down to say “we are duty bound to follow through and continue to fund public education in Texas.” In the panhandle, state Rep. Four Price’s (R-Amarillo) platform includes strongly supporting public schools “so that all Texas children can live up to their fullest educational potential.” Even the Republican-controlled Texas House overwhelmingly voted to ban state taxpayer-funded vouchers, a move that passed 115–29 . We applaud these principled Republicans for standing against big donors.
Legislators like Clardy and Price see another important paradigm in this fight: defunding public schools has devasting impacts on the rural communities they represent. Most rural communities do not have a single private school and they rely on public schools to educate their children and prepare them for the workforce. Taxpayer-funded voucher plans take money from rural communities and direct them to urban centers. The state share of public education under Patrick has continually decreased, while the total tax burden on cities has increased. So, when state voucher money leaves the public system to private schools in cities, rural communities without private schools are asked to make up the difference. Rural Republicans standing up against Wilks and Dunn billionaire dollars are inspiring and well worth supporting — but they are not enough.
That is why principled conservatives should vote for Mike Collier, the former Republican oil and gas executive, for lieutenant governor against public education adversary Dan Patrick. Collier champions issues that matter to Texans, like fixing the grid and reining in property taxes which have skyrocketed on Patrick’s watch. While property taxes are technically set at the local level, the state sets the conditions that can shift greater and greater burdens on counties and cities with unfunded mandates . Prominent Republicans like state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff voiced their support for Collier against the incumbent Republican Patrick because he usurps power from local leaders and blames them later.
Collier is the Democrat in the race, but he thinks like Republicans should. He started out as an oil and gas landman and wants Texas to lead on energy . He is not aligned with Democrats and Beto O’Rourke on the Green New Deal.
Republicans like Clardy and Price who are taking principled stands are not enough to save public education against the Patrick billionaire machine on their own. The office of lieutenant governor is the most powerful office in Texas, and it belongs in the hands of someone who cares about children in this state more than campaign donors. It also belongs in the hands of someone with private sector experience. Mike Collier has the right experience. The radio host and career politician Dan Patrick does not.
The question for Texans is simple: do we show up and yell for our communities’ kids to succeed or do we stop sending our kids and going to the games? I say we show up to vote with clear eyes and full hearts, as the Permian Panthers of Friday Night Lights would say, and support public education. By voting our principles, we can’t lose.
Pitcock is Texas State Chair of the principled conservative organization, Principles First, is an officer in the USMC reserves and a business owner in Texas. Twitter: @jlouispitcock
Originally published at https://www.houstonchronicle.com on October 2, 2022.