Basic math is hard enough for many people, but it becomes impossible when political considerations are thrown into the computations. Consider, for example, the impossible problem of saving educational quality while cutting $7.8 billion (as the Republican majority of the Texas House has done) from the public education budget.
We at TSTA believe that every penny of administrative waste in every school district must be eliminated before any teacher’s job or education support position (such as bus driver or cafeteria worker) is eliminated. Many of the Republicans who voted for the budgetslashing House Bill 1 on Sunday claim to agree, but, unfortunately, they can’t do the math.
Several of the same Republicans, for example, voted last night to move House Bill 400 out of the Public Education Committee, allegedly to give local school officials more “flexibility” over their shrinking budgets, to make it easier for superintendents to prioritize spending. In truth, however, this bill, if enacted, will serve to help many superintendents and school boards protect wasteful spending, rather than force them to eliminate it.
The answer is simple. House Bill 400 doesn’t attack waste. It attacks classrooms and teachers and thus attacks educational quality. It raises the 221 class size limit for kindergarten through fourth grade, which will make classes in the lower grades larger, undermining the critical learning environment for our youngest students.
Larger classes mean superintendents will be able to fire more teachers. HB400 also makes the teacherfiring task easier by permanently eliminating teachers’ basic, due process employment rights. The bill also would allow districts to order furloughs and pay cuts for teachers they don’t fire.
Fewer teachers plus more crowded classrooms equal poorer educational quality. That bit of math isn’t complicated.
If legislators really want school districts to cut waste while protecting teachers’ jobs and educational quality, why pass House Bill 400?
The truth of the matter is that veteran legislators know they can’t cut $7.8 billion (or even half that amount, as the Senate will propose) from the public education budget without sacrificing teachers and classroom quality. House Bill 400 is their way of passing the buck (and the blame) to local school officials, instead of raising the state revenue necessary to protect the classroom.