Letter: Don’t fall in the trap — vote Seliger

Letter: Don\'t fall in the trap — vote Seliger
NewsWest 9 to stream State Senator forum Tuesday night
nIssues involving public education are often debated in Austin and have become major parts of District 31 state Senate race candidates’ message this primary election, particularly on the topic of school finance.

The incumbent, Sen. Kel Seliger, and his opponent, former Midland Mayor Mike Canon recently spoke with the Reporter-Telegram about a variety of education topics. Here’s what they had to say. Note: Former Muleshoe mayor and restaurateur Victor Leal is also a candidate in the Republican primary; however, he did not reply to the Reporter-Telegram’s interview requests.

League of Women Voters is hosting a forum for the state Senate candidates 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Carrasco Room at Midland College’s Scharbauer Student Center.

Funding public education is among Texas’ most complicated matters. Texas now spends more on Medicaid than public education. Seliger said the thought in Austin is that budgets can be reduced if more of the funding burden is moved to local school districts.

“Then we went in and said you can’t raise your property taxes where you can shoulder that part of the burden and we’re going to take money away from you as you collect taxes and give them to another school district that doesn’t have oil and gas,” Seliger said, alluding to the state’s attempt to reduce local taxing entities’ threshold on raising taxes without an election and the state’s Robin Hood law, where money is taken from wealthier school districts and given to poorer districts.

Seliger in the last legislative session voted against the threshold change, which would have reduced the election trigger from a rise of 8 percent to 4 percent. The lone Republican to not support the bill, Seliger told the Reporter-Telegram for a previous article that the state shouldn’t dictate what local taxing entities can do to meet its obligations.

Canon said he doesn’t think it’s unreasonable for the state to exert this type of control.

“I know the argument is that we already have a way to hold (local elected officials) accountable, and that’s to not vote them in the next time,” he said. “The problem is that the cows may already be out of the barn at that point. They may have already incurred obligations and made expenditures that the citizens, had they had the opportunity, would have said no. I think there ought to be a cap.”

Canon likens local government officials to a board of director and considers residents like shareholders. “The board of directors is only given the authority to do so much in corporations; there are limitations placed on boards,” he said.

The same limits should be placed on elected officials and residents should be allowed to vote on matters such as tax increases.

“The taxpayers of MISD have paid $500 million in money that goes to other school districts. That’s what Robin Hood is, and it simply timed out in terms of its effectiveness from a budget point of view and an educational point of view,” Seliger said. “We need to get rid of Robin Hood. It is no longer a good way of financing public ed.”

Advocates for school vouchers say it gives parents greater education opportunities for their children. Seliger said he has voted against school vouchers and criticizes organizations such as Empower Texans, which has endorsed Canon, for advocating their implementation.

The fight for vouchers is “all about money” and getting taxpayers to fund particular religious philosophies in schools. While it’s their right to have religious educational institutions, “we are not obligated as taxpayers to pay for education that has a religious philosophy,” Seliger said. “A lot of (religious philosophies) we like, but what about the ones we don’t like?”

Canon said he doesn’t have an extensive amount of knowledge about vouchers but that he is interested in what he has read about their success in other states. “I do not believe that, at the end of the day, you should benefit one group at the expense of another,” he said. “But if vouchers can be used to effectuate a better outcome for the educational system in our state, I say why not look at them.”

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin recently held a ceremony in which the last beam for its new engineering building was placed. Seliger, who helped the school receive funding for the building, called the project a major milestone for the region.

“Engineering programs round out UTPB as increasingly a university of choice for young people,” he said. “We have a petroleum engineering program that, because of where it’s located and because of the determination of President (Sandra) Woodley, is going to be a university of choice, not a regional choice. That’s important.”

Seliger says Canon has spoken about how the former Midland mayor advocates not constructing new buildings and universities. Canon told the Reporter-Telegram: “Seliger has taken one thing that I’ve said and stretched it into something that’s absolutely not true.”

“What I was saying was we need to find whatever means we can to make higher education as affordable as possible for our students,” he said. “Things like technology and the utilization of long-distance learning as opposed to building new buildings would be the sort of things we ought to be considering.

“I didn’t say we shouldn’t be building new buildings. My attitude about building new buildings is we do it as they’re needed. You take those things a step at a time.”

Canon added that state universities should be held accountable to running efficiently and keeping costs as low as possible for students.

Colleges and universities are growing at a rapid clip, and need support because they will be key in strengthening the state in the future, Seliger said.

“There is an initiative in the state of Texas to have 60 percent of Texans have a certificate or diploma by 2030,” he said. “We cannot fall behind in the fiscal support of all those institutions, and what’s probably going to have the greatest influence on that goal are going to be community colleges.”

He called UTPB “an emerging university” and said it has some of the most advantageous tuition rates in the country. However, “It doesn’t mean we can quit working on it,” Seliger said.

The Odessa Police Department has made an arrest following the assault of an officer on Feb. 9. 

The Odessa Police Department has made an arrest following the assault of an officer on Feb. 9. 

Trump’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year calls for steep cuts to America’s social safety net and mounting spending on the military.

The administration’s plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage local and state tax dollars to fix America’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports.

The administration’s plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage local and state tax dollars to fix America’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports.

Midland Police Department are on scene at the Valero on South Big Spring St. One adult man has been transported to Midland Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound. 

Midland Police Department are on scene at the Valero on South Big Spring St. One adult man has been transported to Midland Memorial Hospital with a gunshot wound

The Odessa Police Department needs your help locating two men who police said used counterfeit money. Police said one of the men used five fake $50 bills to buy a hoverboard from The Variety Store at the Music City Mall. 

The Odessa Police Department needs your help locating two men who police said used counterfeit money. Police said one of the men used five fake $50 bills to buy a hoverboard from The Variety Store at the Music City Mall. 


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