Less Is Not More

So there’s this old drunk. His drinking’s bad: his wife and kids are threatening to leave him, and he’s about to lose his job.

Knowing he’s in a bad place and needs to buy time, the drunk tells everyone that he isn’t going to drink any more.

That night, he gets drunk as a skunk. His wife finds him and says, “You lied to me. Didn’t you tell me you weren’t drinking any more?”  

He righteously retorts, “Well, I don’t drink any more. But I don’t drink any less, either.”

Read her lips: “It was not as much”

Last week, the Texas Comptroller, who’s in charge of the state’s books and bank accounts, gave a speech in which she tried to blame the state’s budget problems on everyone except the folks who are actually responsible for the budget.  She wanted, badly, to say the public education budget hadn’t been cut, but the words got in the way.
Someone in the audience asked a simple question and … well, take it away, Bryan-College Station Eagle:

“An attendee at the meeting asked Combs how much had the state ‘actually’ cut from public education.
“She said the state didn’t reduce funding, but added $2 billion.
“‘It was not less, but it was not as much,’ she said.”

In reality and in math, “not as much” = “less” 

Now, there’s this funny (by which I mean, not funny) argument that’s been floating around lately with some of those who are in control of the Capitol. They’re saying that despite all the news stories you’ve seen saying the state cut billions from public education funding …
Despite the actual bill they actually passed that actually allowed the state to break its real-life promise to school districts by giving them less money …
Despite the hundreds of districts now suing the state over an inadequate and/or unfair school finance system …
Despite the many, many problems that Texas kids, parents and teachers are having to deal with thanks to these cuts …
Despite all of those things – things that are really happening right now in Texas schools – the folks in control are denying that they cut education funding during the last session.
Politifact did probably the definitive demolition of this argument a few weeks back, giving the arguer the coveted “Pants on Fire” rating.
But it’s not just one House member. The Lieutenant Governor, in his inimitable way, said people who criticize and say there were school budget cuts “have a problem with math. The facts are the facts.”
The Houston Chronicle took a look at those “facts” and brushed them off with the headline “Dewhurst using Enron math on school finance issue.” 

(That in a city that doesn’t exactly throw around the “Enron” label casually.)

And now, we have the Comptroller, the state’s chief financial officer, making the same argument … Well, sort of:
“It was not less, but it was not as much.”

Texas can do better … and deserves better

I talk a lot about honesty, openness and transparency in government and in budgeting. This is why it matters.
The fact is that Texas is a great place. I’m proud of it, and with lots of good reasons.  But Texas can do better when it comes to our schools, universities, children and so many other things. And we still can create the great schools that Texans deserve, no matter what the cynics and doubters say.
But we can do that only if we’re open about where we are and honest about where we need to go.
It’s time – it’s past time – for all sides to come together and find a permanent solution that will fund Texas schools. But that’s only going to work if we reform this government by being honest in the state’s accounting and transparent in its use of taxpayers’ money.
We can’t ask middle-class Texans to pay more in taxes, nor can we cut away at our schools and our future, without creating basic reform in state government and accountability in the state’s budgeting. Taxpayers deserve to know where every penny is being spent.
And how can Texans trust those in control of the state amid so many empty words, blatant untruths and ridiculous denials when it comes to our schools?

What’s at stake 

This issue, of course, isn’t just about the kids in the classroom. It’s about every community in every corner of Texas. Property values, crime rates, good employers that can hire good employees – these are the things at stake when we talk about the quality of local schools.
Texas can do better. And Texans deserve much better than rank deception and denial. They need real leaders who are, at the very least, honest about the problem and what to do about it.
If we can get that honesty – and if we can reform government to guarantee transparency – then we can create great schools for this great state.

We can, and we must, ensure Texas’ future by making sure our kids are prepared for it.