Despite his continuing denials, Greg Abbott is responsible for school budgetary shortfalls

Gov. Greg Abbott continues to claim that voucher opponents, not him, were responsible for killing additional funding for public schools last year. But educators in those schools, which are now suffering serious budgetary shortfalls, know better. The governor can lie and try to mislead all he wants, but the truth remains that he – Greg Abbott – killed the school funding bill.

Given the opportunity, every member of the Texas House of Representatives likely would have voted for additional public education funding and higher pay for school employees during the last special session of 2023.

But once a House majority voted to remove the governor’s taxpayer-funded private school voucher plan from the funding bill, the measure was pulled down and never came to a vote. It never came to a vote because Abbott had vowed to kill any additional funding for public schools without the tax giveaway for private schools.

Abbott also blames schools’ financial problems on the pending expiration of the federal COVID relief funds and declining enrollments. Those are contributing factors for some districts, but the governor’s blatant refusal to increase the public education budget at a time when the state was flush with $33 billion of surplus cash is the main reason many schools are now struggling and preparing to cut programs and lay off teachers and other employees.

The governor also tries to confuse people by claiming that his failure to allow lawmakers to increase the annual basic student allotment of $6,160 for school districts is “misleading.”

“The average funding per student actually exceeds $12,000,” he said in a recent news release. But that is nothing to brag about.

According to the National Education Association’s latest analysis of Texas school finance data, the average spending per student in average daily attendance in Texas is now $12,781, but this is $5,220 less per student than the national average and ranks Texas 46th among the states and the District of Columbia, almost scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Only someone as anti-public education as Greg Abbott would be proud of that.

And what about that basic student allotment of $6,160, which Abbott doesn’t seem to think is very important?

The basic allotment is the foundation of Texas’ complex school finance system. Other formula funding, based on factors that vary among school districts, is added to that to determine each district’s actual per-student allotment of funds.

The basic allotment hasn’t been increased since 2019, and school finance experts say it would take an increase of at least $1,000 simply to help school districts catch up with inflationary increases in their programs. An extra $1,000 in the basic allotment would increase Texas’ average spending per student to close to $14,000, a significant step in the right direction.

The governor of Texas should understand that, but this governor obviously doesn’t care.

Clay Robison

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