One of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the rest of his office's favorite pastimes is to pretend Texas can pay for itself, thank you very much, without the federal government's help. The state is currently playing hardball with healthcare, pretending to act in proud defiance of a so-called "overreaching federal government." It's been a while since Texas cut itself out of Obamacare, and the state is still standing (albeit shakily). But the Texas school system, already in tatters, may not be able to survive without the kindness of strangers, despite Patrick's latest tough talk.
His highly public crusade to keep transgender people from comfortably using public restrooms put Texas on the federal government's shit list, prompting the Obama administration to announce that it would be issuing an executive order mandating public schools across the country allow transgender individuals to use whatever gender restroom they identify with, with the big "or else" here being a threat to pull federal funding for education in non-complying states.
But the threat failed to move Patrick's heart (or, perhaps more appropriately, his bowels).
“Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver," Patrick said, according to the Texas Tribune. "We will not be blackmailed by the president of the United States.
“I think the people of Texas would join with the legislature to try to find a way around it… to try to find money somewhere,” he told WFAA.
That statement came a day before the Texas Supreme Court ripped apart the state's self-funding system for public schools, according to the Tribune, calling for "transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid." The court upheld the state's current finance system after more than 600 school districts sued Texas because the lege slashed $5 billion from the public education budget in 2011.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement. But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements,” Justice Don Willett wrote in the decision. Justice Eva Guzman concurred, writing "Good enough now ... does not mean that the system is good or that it will continue to be enough. Shortfalls in both resources and performance persist in innumerable respects, and a perilously large number of students is in danger of falling further behind."
Texas received more than $3.1 billion federal funds for "State Formula-Allocated and Selected Student Aid Programs" in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. But Patrick said Texas will be A-OK without that.
“I don’t want their money," Patrick told WFAA. "This is dirty money from the federal government. It’s really our tax money they’re sending back. We send it up clean to Washington, and he sends it back dirty. He says ‘I’m not going to give you your money, unless you do what I tell you to do.’ I don't like to be threatened."
Looking past Patrick's oddly ranked priorities (discriminatory bathrooms over funding for education?), it's actually kind of ironic that Patrick is crying about overreach when, just days before the Obama administration's announcement, Patrick called from his perch in Austin for the superintendent of Fort Worth's schools to resign for proposing transgender-friendly bathroom guidelines. In this bathroom battle, Patrick's olfactory senses are apparently numb to the scent of his own shit.