Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Lost Art of Compromise

Watching the chaos and dissension that is the 85th Legislative Session reminds me of being a kid again; the difference is that we were able to resolve issues when we were kids because we had a “leader” (translated as parent or teacher) who really gave us no choice but to figure out how to work better together as a family or with a group of friends.  Imagine where we would all be today had we not learned how to compromise, how to negotiate and how to get along.  Who knows, we might well be legislators!

There have been glimmers of hope over the past month or so on a number of fronts but, as quickly as hope was renewed, someone (often the Lt. Governor) found a way to flip the switch back off.  It certainly is his right, I suppose, to take a hard line stance in supporting what he defined as his interim priorities.  So, too, is it the right of the Speaker to stand pat in supporting his own interim priorities.  But at what point does each give a little in an effort to find solutions acceptable to both chambers and to the political parties?

I applaud the Speaker and Chairman Huberty for standing fast in supporting the Chairman’s HB21, this despite the threats from the Lt. Governor that the Speaker is the cause of an anticipated special session.  But the Lt. Governor’s continued insistence on not addressing school finance was never going to move this off of center.  Looking at his actions to name conferees to “discuss” HB21 (wonder how much discussion there really was before again killing HB21) could very likely be a PR move to try and save a little bit of face with the public.

So back to the art of compromise.  As I read the outcome of the Senate and House conferees relating to HB21, there doesn’t appear to be much compromise on either side.  The Senate wanted $50M for charter facilities funding (camel’s nose in the tent much like vouchers (by any name)) and the House wanted $100M for ASATR.  Is there not a compromise that could have been worked out or did both sides maintain a hard line stance with no flexibility?

The losers in this session are not just the students in our public schools but they are certainly the focus of our collective efforts.  Funding enrollment growth was always pretty much a given but responding to the decision of the Texas Supreme Court (remember “minimum constitutional requirements”) was never the intent of Senate “leadership”.  Again thinking back to my childhood, I always wanted to have my own way if I could but with encouragement from a “leader” in my household or in the classroom, I often had to give something up to get something in return.  Sadly, this legislature seems to have forgotten that absolute winners creates absolute losers; individual agendas fueled discussions, not the needs of constituents.  We’ll have to compromise on some fronts going forward but it will take a collective effort to make education a priority.

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