By SALLY SEXTON
Politics, education and religion all came together Wednesday afternoon during a Pastors for Texas Children Luncheon held at Northside Baptist Church.
Superintendents from area school districts, including Weatherford, Millsap, Peaster, Brock, Chico and Santo were present, as were ministers from area churches, to hear State Rep. Phil King address the group on public education.
Pastors for Texas Children is an independent ministry and outreach group comprised of pastors and church leaders from across the state, and has grown to include more than 750 leaders.
“We’re not hear to push politics or religion. We are here to be an advocate for our children,” Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, said.
“We want to be a resource to our community,” added Northside Baptist pastor Van Houser.
King said one of the biggest state issues right now is Medicaid, which has “gobbled up” most of the funding, allowing for decreases in other areas such as public education and transportation.
“[Medicaid] has gotten completely out of control. Something like that is needed, but it’s very inefficient and fraudulent and it’s gaining dramatically in expense,” King said.
Medicaid expenses have increased 12 percent compared to two years ago, he said.
“Last year was the first time that we began to spend more money on Medicaid than we did on public education,” King said. “We’ve even thrown around the idea that it might be cheaper to invest in private insurance.
“There is plenty of money in the budget but it’s getting gobbled up by Medicaid.”
King said that the state currently has about $8 billion in “rainy day” funds, and is hopeful that a large portion of that will be distributed to public education next year.
“In 2011, we had a dramatic shortfall and we were forced to cut everything,” he said. “I have high hopes that a lot of that [rainy day funding] will go toward education, but we’re holding on to that money until January, just to make sure we didn’t over budget.”