Like matadors, special interests are waving the red cape of teacher jobs in front of Texans and their representatives.
Curious constituents should wonder why teachers – one of the most noble expenses in our state budget – have become the target of budget cuts in the media and government.
The reason is, special interests are protecting themselves from cuts and teachers jobs are the most effective way to do it. This isn’t to say there’s a widely coordinated effort afoot. There almost assuredly is not, for a simple reason: there doesn’t need to be.
Budget interests are automatically aligned for everyone in Texas with a sweetheart deal: bloated universities, government-savvy business interests, agencies (all of which are bloated), boondoggle projects like trains, gambling interests, trial lawyers fighting for frivolous lawsuits, union-like associations – the list could go on. These groups all have something to lose if the budget is looked at closely and honestly.
Special interests would all have a hard time justifying their sweetheart deal if it was examined closely by the public. Teacher jobs, it is hoped, can protect all the ugly interests hidden within the budget.
From the perspective of special interests, even if the budget argument is lost, they still have Texans used to the idea that teachers and students will suffer, not them. They’ve managed to stay invisible.
Legislators know there are rewards for keeping campaign contributors happy, especially large contributors such as associations and government-savvy business interests. This doesn’t necessarily mean opposing budget cuts. Opposing cuts is only one way to do it. Another way is to offer poor leadership in the budget-cutting cause. Leaders could, say, propose outsized education cuts and not enough cuts in other areas. They could then stand around silent as school administrators and media work together to make Texans think the education system has to be ruined in order to save the Rainy Day Fund. Concerning budget cuts, bad leadership that provokes opposition isn’t any better than opposition.
Teachers need to understand that they’re being used in this way. House conservatives, left out of meaningful leadership by the Speaker, are eager to cut the budget while putting teacher cuts last, not first. Moderate House leadership is enabling a game of chicken to be played with teacher jobs. Conservatives are teachers’ best friends right now, whether teachers realize it or not.