Telling only part of the story

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which wants to shrink state government so small that it can be drowned in some fat cat’s bathtub, obviously is no friend of the public schools. Strange as it may seem, however, TSTA can find some limited (very limited) common ground with the group, which has been making thousands of phone calls to targeted households, trying to deny the impact of pending budget cuts on teacher jobs.

Part of the group’s recorded message states, “The classroom must be protected.” TSTA agrees with that, and we believe that school districts should root out bureaucratic waste before they even think about touching teachers’ jobs or salaries.

The problem with the conservative group’s overall message, however, is that it pretends there are no such jobs as school counselors, teachers’ aides, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers and campus security guards.

The group and its leader, Michael Quinn Sullivan, are among those who like to note that teachers account for only half of the public education workforce, implying that the other half consists only of overpaid superintendents and other administrators.

The other half, however, also includes the aforementioned counselors, classroom aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance people and security guards, all of whom play important roles in getting kids to and from school safely and contributing to a safe, healthy learning environment.

I’m sure there are some antigovernment types who think teachers can perform all of the above support jobs as well as turn out future Nobel laureates. I doubt, however, that many parents would agree.

While a growing number of school districts are taking steps to lay off large numbers of teachers, TSTA is encouraged that some legislators are looking at how to trim the educational bureaucracy. There was even a brief discussion last week in the House Appropriations education subcommittee about capping or regulating school superintendents’ salaries.

But Texas’ school finance system is so underfunded that it will be impossible to balance the new state budget without laying off large numbers of teachers and other district employees, overcrowding classrooms and closing neighborhood schools – unless the Legislature spends the Rainy Day Fund and finds new revenue sources. Remember, about $10 billion of the state’s $27 billion revenue shortfall is the structural deficit in the school finance system, the result of the 2006 school property tax cuts that weren’t fully funded by lawmakers.

Wonder, meanwhile, what your school superintendent makes? Check out this link to The Texas Tribune and find out:


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