State has money for school funding, but lacks will

The latest update from the state comptroller reinforces what has been obvious for months. State government has more than enough revenue to undo about $2.5 billion in state budget cuts for the public schools that will kick in during the upcoming school year. Despite reservations expressed in the newspaper article linked below, it is clear that the state has enough money to restore school funding, avoid further school layoffs and early retirements and start reducing the size of overcrowded classrooms – right now.

Money isn’t the real problem and never has been. What is missing is the political will to do the right thing, and that begins with Gov. Perry, who still refuses to call the Legislature into special session to make the extra appropriation. Perry, instead, prefers to travel the state peddling his own version of snake oil, a socalled “state budget compact” that would further reduce spending for public education, health care and other important services, despite an improving economy and growing collections from existing taxes.

According to the latest report from Comptroller Susan Combs, state government will raise at least $5 billion in unanticipated general revenue during the current budget period. That is in addition to at least $7.3 billion – and probably more – that will be in the Rainy Day Fund. Yet, Perry insisted last year that the Legislature leave those Rainy Day funds untouched while slashing $5.4 billion from the public education budget.

It is clear that state government has enough money to restore funding for the public schools and close a big gap in the Medicaid budget – with room to spare.

Several months ago, TSTA urged the governor to call lawmakers into special session to spend $2.5 billion of the Rainy Day balance (about half of the total education cuts) to save funding and jobs for the 201213 school year. But Perry has refused, even as state coffers continue to fill and classes grow larger with increasing school enrollment.

Instead, the governor will continue to get rightwing legislators and legislative candidates to sign his “budget compact.” The most recent was Rep. Sid Miller, who signed the document earlier this week in Copperas Cove. Miller’s signature was no surprise, since he voted for the education cuts, including more than $15 million to his own school districts last year and an untold additional amount for 201213. Now, he can’t wait to slash some more, which is why Republican voters would be doing themselves – and their schools – a big favor by voting for Miller’s opponent, J.D. Sheffield, in the July 31 runoff in House District 59.


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