Mike Collier, a Democrat hoping to challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick next year, will make a campaign stop in Waco this weekend to talk property tax and school finance reform as part of his statewide election tour.

The McLennan County Democratic Party is hosting the event, which starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Waco-McLennan County Central Library, 1717 Austin Ave. Anyone interested is invited, local party Chairwoman Mary Duty said.

“I hope attendees will understand the complexity of the situation in terms of how school districts are often given the burden of financing schools that used to be part of the state (funding model),” Duty said.

The event should help residents understand how the state has shifted the burden for school funding to local taxpayers, she said.

The state cut $5.4 billion from state education funding in 2011, and school districts like Waco ISD are continually having to find other ways to cover costs. Waco ISD didn’t receive any additional state funding this year, district officials said this summer.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May last year that the state’s education funding system is constitutional but also urged lawmakers to make “transformational, top-to-bottom reforms that amount to more than Band-Aid on top of Band-Aid.”

This summer, lawmakers also debated school funding reform but failed to pass a bill that would have directed $1.5 billion to public schools and simplified outdated funding formulas.

“I’m anxious to hear his speech, and I get that schools are asked to do a lot with a little,” Duty said.

Collier will face Michael Cooper, a sales manager in North Texas, in next year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Republican Scott Milder, the co-founder of the education-focused nonprofit Friends of Texas Public Schools, is challenging Patrick in the Republican primary.

Collier started his career at Exxon and found his way to one of the largest accounting firms in the world, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, according to his campaign website.

Since his candidate filing in November, Collier has taken stances against policies Patrick pushed in the last legislative session, including Patrick’s support for school vouchers and a bathroom bill to force transgender individuals to use public restrooms based on the sex listed on their birth certificate.

“There will be much more to my campaign than public education and unrigging the property tax system,” Collier wrote in a press release last month announcing his candidacy. “Texas is losing its luster in the business community. Companies are shocked and embarrassed that our top leaders are off-the-charts hostile to diversity and inclusion.

“Dan Patrick has seriously damaged Texas’ reputation with his fake bathroom nonsense and his anti-immigrant hysteria. If we don’t fire Dan Patrick, our Texas miracle will become a Texas calamity.”

Duty said she hopes Saturday’s event will spur a conversation about education funding reform that crosses party lines. Though only one lieutenant governor candidate will be in town Saturday, she hopes to invite more to Waco as the campaigns continue, including Patrick, she said.

“We talk about party allegiance, but in schools people drop those party labels and talk about what’s good for the community,” Duty said. “And I like that we can talk about what’s good for a community beyond party labels.”

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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