TEXAS VIEW: Texans need both parties debating education

By Beaumont Enterprise

At this point it’s not even clear that Andrew White will prevail over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the May 22 runoff for the Democratic nomination for governor. And candidates of both parties will say a lot during campaigns to get attention or fire up their base.

Even with those qualifications, however, White has done something worthwhile for Democrats … and Republicans. He has put forth several interesting proposals on improving public education in Texas. Unless Texans are satisfied with the status quo — and we don’t see how they could be — these ideas should be part of the campaign for governor — and the next session of the Legislature.

Ironically, a key part of White’s proposal might be a non-starter — legalizing casino gambling in Texas to raise more money for education.

Lots of Texans would support the second part of that but not the first. More gambling of any kind probably won’t get through the Legislature as long as Republicans control both chambers.

In all, White wants to devote $6.5 billion more to education and cut local property taxes by an additional $2.5 billion. To help pay for the $9 billion plan, he wants to divert $1 billion from border security (which he maintains the federal government is paying for now) and close a $5 billion loophole in commercial property taxes.

Even if casino gambling is not in the future, members of both parties seem to understand that Texas has to spend more on public education — or at least halt the continuing erosion of state aid that forces local taxpayers to spend more.

State aid has dropped from 48 percent in 2008 to 38 percent now. That’s an unfunded mandate if there ever was one, and it’s hard to imagine better schools if that trend continues.

Gov. Greg Abbott has his own ideas on education, from more pre-K to fewer bureaucratic restrictions on local school districts. When Abbott debates either White or Valdez this fall, Texans deserve to hear serious, realistic ways to improve a public education system that must at least meet national averages, if not exceed them.