Public education and child advocates in Texas have found an uncommon ally in this year’s budget debates: the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the largest business advocate in the state. A budget bill passed by the Texas House of Representatives on April 4 included dramatic cuts to education, providing $8 billion less funding than state law requires. Among the most austere provisions is the complete elimination of state funding for pre-kindergarten programs. TAB published a report making the case that quality public education is vital for the state’s economy, and that pre-kindergarten programs in particular actually help contain education costs in the short term. Association president Bill Hammond said, "If we don't have an educated workforce, the jobs will leave. We are not meeting the needs of the future."
Corporate-backed legislators and governors are sacrificing their future political prospects as they ram through increasingly unpopular bills attacking the middle class and economic security. While the greatest attention has focused on the dramatic story that is still unfolding in Wisconsin, equally important fights are going on across the country. In case after case, polls show public approval ratings plummeting for elected officials pushing legislation that scapegoats public sector workers and collective bargaining rights for their states’ fiscal problems. While some of these officials are moving to moderate their course to save themselves, others are pressing forward with a zeal that is likely to cost them politically.