Should a principled Texas conservative vote for Dan Patrick?

There’s nothing like Friday Night Lights in Texas. Where else can you see communities filling stadiums in the tens of thousands to cheer and cheer on our young people? Anyone who has played on these grounds knows how thundering stadiums of cheering fans can give you the extra motivation to succeed. Colleges across the country recognize this system as a top producer of athletes and they descend on our cities to recruit year after year.

Our public schools should operate the same way. Strong public schools motivate students and provide them with the tools they need to succeed so employers seek to hire them. Public education accessible to all is the foundation of the American dream. The formula is quite simple: supporting public education is an investment in the future of our country.

It was a common tenet in the business-oriented Republican Party not too long ago. George HW Bush’s insistence on being the “president of education” compelled his next three predecessors to make significant strides in strengthening public education against often fierce opposition. Republicans used to lead on this issue.

Today, Texas GOP leaders like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick aim to defund public education and subsidize private schools with public money. Parents use their own money to send their children to private school, that’s fine and it’s the free market that works, but we all know what happens when the government subsidizes something – the public good deteriorates and the private good becomes too expensive for the popular government was trying to help in the first place. The best example now exists at the university level. Look no further than the effects of government-funded loans and scholarships on private Ivy League schools. In other words, as the government injects money, elite schools raise their tuition even more.

So why are leaders like Dan Patrick fighting so hard for a policy that hurts so much? Unfortunately, the billionaire-funded campaign against public education has its roots in the same place where Dan Patrick finds his campaign funds.

Fortunately, there are principled Republicans in this state who put their constituents and the good of our communities first. State Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) said, “We have a duty to follow through and continue to fund public education in Texas.” In begging, State Rep. Four Price’s (R-Amarillo) platform includes strong support for public schools “so that all children in Texas can reach their full educational potential.” Even the Republican-controlled Texas House voted overwhelmingly to ban taxpayer-funded vouchers from the state, a move that passed 115 to 29. We applaud these principled Republicans for opposing to major donors.

Lawmakers like Clardy and Price see another important paradigm in this struggle: Funding public schools has devastating effects on the rural communities they represent. Most rural communities do not have a single private school and rely on public schools to educate their children and prepare them for the job market. Taxpayer-funded voucher schemes take money from rural communities and direct it to urban centers. The state’s share of public education under Patrick has continually declined, while the total tax burden on cities has increased. So when state bond money leaves the public system for private schools in cities, rural communities without private schools are asked to make up the difference. Rural Republicans standing up against billionaire dollars Wilks and Dunn are inspiring and worth supporting, but they are not enough.

That’s why principled conservatives should vote for Mike Collier, the former Republican oil and gas executive, for lieutenant governor over public education opponent Dan Patrick. Collier champions issues that matter to Texans, like fixing the grid and getting a grip on property taxes that have skyrocketed under Patrick’s watch. While property taxes are technically set at the local level, the state sets the conditions that can shift increasingly heavy burdens onto counties and cities with unfunded mandates. Prominent Republicans like State Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, and former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff have voiced their support for Collier against incumbent Republican Patrick for usurping the power of local leaders and blame them later.

Collier is the Democrat in the race, but he thinks like Republicans should. It started as a
owner of oil and gas and wants Texas to be the energy leader
. He is not aligned with the Democrats and Beto O’Rourke on the Green New Deal.

Republicans like Clardy and Price who take principled positions alone are not enough to save public education from Patrick’s billionaire machine. The office of lieutenant governor is the most powerful office in Texas, and it belongs to someone who cares more about the children of this state than about campaign donors. It also belongs to someone who has experience in the private sector. Mike Collier has the right experience. Radio host and career politician Dan Patrick does not.

The question for Texans is simple: do we show up and shout for the kids in our communities 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 cannot lose.

Pitcock is the Texas State President of the principled conservative organization, Principles First, is an officer in the USMC Reserves, and owns a business in Texas. Twitter: @jlouispitcock

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