The Legislature’s revenue picture has improved by billions of dollars over the past two years, including an $8.8 billion surplus for the current budget period and a Rainy Day Fund balance approaching $12 billion, but the alleged state “leadership” is still stuck in reverse. The initial budget plans to emerge in the Senate and the House fail to restore the $5.4 billion slashed from public education in 2011 and, according to some experts, fall short of funding all the enrollment growth anticipated over the next two years.
As Paul Burka noted today in his Texas Monthly blog, these proposals don’t represent public policy. They are driven by ideology, an ideology that wants to privatize education for the relatively small number of Texans who can afford it and force everyone else’s children into home schools or cram them into the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear.
“This is absolutely nuts,” Burka wrote, and I am sure thousands of Texas parents and educators would agree.
Remember, the 2011 cuts were more than $500 per student at a time when public school enrollment in Texas is increasing by 80,000 to 85,000 students a year. Texas students, who have suffered from larger classes and diminished opportunities, deserve to have the damage to their learning environments restored. And, the money is there.
The final shape of the next public education budget is up to you, the educators, parents and other taxpayers who truly value the public schools. There is time to overhaul the initial drafts before the final state budget is written this spring, but that won’t happen if you don’t insist upon it. Contact your legislators and keep contacting them.
Keep reminding them that nostalgia for the 19th Century has no place in 21st Century budget-setting.