Gov. Greg Abbott in his State of the State Monday outlined his priorities for the legislative session–including “emergency items” that he wants fast-tracked through the Legislature. Missing, however, were specific items for addressing the pandemic, and the governor neglected to address prioritizing the vaccination of school employees and making campuses safer for in-person instruction.
“Heroes” of the pandemic he cited included “nurses and doctors, the food servers, the hospital janitors…truck drivers, grocery clerks, small business owners, and so many Texans who labor on the front lines…think of our farmers and the ranchers who provide the food that is so desperately needed.” Educators didn’t make his list.
On a brighter note, while touting what he sees as the economic successes in Texas, Abbott added: “To stay on top, to sustain this growth, we must continue to invest in our future, and that is exactly what we did last session when we…made major investments in our students and teachers…This session we must continue to fund education as we promised.” Abbott also stressed the need for civics education to teach students “why we are so exceptional….and ensure that every child learns the values of freedom, good governance and patriotism.” Finally, the governor reminded teachers of the average pay increase they received last year: $3,800 for under 5 years of service, and $5,200 for over 5 years—raises that the majority of teachers say they never saw in their paychecks.
One of the governor’s emergency items should benefit public education: “expanding broadband internet access.” But the others were glaringly outside addressing safety in the pandemic and more in line with the partisan, far-right legislative agendas seen in past sessions: punishing local governments that “defund the police,’” “changing the bail system,” “election integrity” and “providing civil liability protections for businesses that were open during the pandemic.”