Many of the legislators who voted two years ago to slash education funding by $5.4 billion – or more than $500 per student – continue to claim state government is poverty-stricken and refuse to take steps to restore the funding. The only thing poverty-stricken about the legislative majority, however, is its lack of political will to fully support local public schools and the children educated in them.
These legislators need some political backbone, folks, and the most effective way for them to attain that quality is with frequent reminders from their constituents that the cost of a strong public education system – and, with it, a strong economic future for our children – is a larger investment in under-funded public schools NOW.
In his school finance ruling last week, State District Judge John Dietz of Austin said state funding of public education clearly was inadequate and unfair. He had no firm dollar figures but suggested it may take at least an additional $2,000 per student to meet all state standards. Right now, Texas is spending about $8,900 per child, following the budget cuts. That puts Texas 45th among the states and the District of Columbia. Dietz’s suggested increase would carry an additional cost of $10 billion to $11 billion a year, and it would still leave Texas a few hundred dollars short per child of the national average.
That price tag is the main reason the state leadership will appeal Dietz’s ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, a process that will take at least a year. In the meantime, though, it is time for the legislative majority to restore the $5.4 billion cut two years ago. With an $8.8 billion surplus and $11.8 billion in the Rainy Day Fund – more than $20 billion — lawmakers have enough money to address the education issue, as well as funding for Medicaid and other important needs.
But their constituents – beginning with educators and parents – need to keep demanding that their legislators do the right thing.
If you can, attend the Save Texas Schools march and rally at the Capitol on Feb. 23. Check this link for details.
Also, contact your legislators and make sure they know in no uncertain terms that you expect them to restore the cuts and that you will be watching. If you don’t know who your state representative or state senator is, click on this link and type in your address to find out who they are and how to contact them.
Then contact them – early and often. The future of your local public school depends on it.