School closures: You get what you elect

Elections have consequences, a reality that the parents, children and teachers of Waco ISD are confronting as that district continues to struggle with the consequences of deep cuts to the state’s public education budget.

Two years ago, McLennan County, in which Waco ISD is located, voted overwhelmingly to reelect Gov. Rick Perry. Area voters also elected Brian Birdwell to the Texas Senate, reelected veteran State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson to the Texas House and, for a second House seat, rejected a longtime incumbent with a strong propublic education record in favor of a newcomer, State Rep. Marva Beck.

Last year, Gov. Perry demanded deep cuts in public school funding, and Birdwell, Anderson and Beck agreed and voted for education cuts that ultimately totaled $5.4 billion. (Anderson didn’t vote for the final version of the budget, but he supported deep spending reductions for the public schools throughout the appropriations process.)

Now, this month, the budgetstrapped Waco school board is weighing a proposal to close four neighborhood elementary schools, shut down a successful high school academy and merge two middle schools and move them to the academy campus. If the plan is adopted, hundreds of school children will see their routines disrupted and face the prospect of morecrowded classes and an erosion of educational quality. And, who knows how many jobs for teachers and other school employees will be at stake.

All this could have been avoided if the governor, the three Waco lawmakers and other members of the legislative majority had fulfilled their constitutional duty to adequately fund the public schools. Instead, they chose to bow to antigovernment ideologues, even to the point of leaving more than $7 billion of taxpayers’ money unspent in the Rainy Day Fund. There it still sits, and the fund is growing, as Waco and other school districts throughout the state prepare for another round of spending reductions in the 201213 school year.

TSTA challenges the teachers, parents and other taxpayers in Waco to sign our petition, urging the governor to call the Legislature into special session now and spend $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to save neighborhood schools by restoring the education cuts for 201213. Demand that Birdwell, Anderson and Beck as well as members of the Waco school board sign it.

There will be legislative elections this year, offering a chance for Waco voters who value their public schools to demand more accountability from the people they send to Austin. But there is enough money in the Rainy Day Fund to stop the cuts – and the school bleeding now.

Click on this link to sign the petition:

http://www.tstaweb.net/forms/2012cutsPetition.html

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