Texas schools are not funded adequately.

 

 

Article 7 of the Texas Constitution states that the Legislature has the duty to “establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools”. What are we to make, then, of Governor Abbott’s threat that he will veto the state budget if it does not leave enough money for cutting business taxes? (Dallas Morning News, 2/4/15)

 

If we backtrack a little we see the source of our current problems. In 2011, facing a $15 billion projected revenue shortfall, the Texas legislature opted to cut services rather than raise taxes. Most of the cuts were in education, and in health and human services. Despite opposition from Democrats, and a filibuster led by Wendy Davis, the $5.4 billion cut to public education passed. It sparked a lawsuit by school districts statewide. That dispute is currently in the courts, and will probably not be settled before spring of 2016 (DMN, 1/24/15).

 

State funding for our public schools ranks in the bottom five states in the nation, and we have the declining SAT scores to prove it. Addressing the lawsuit brought by school districts (currently, over 600 school districts have joined), State Judge John Dietz ruled on Aug. 28, 2014, that public school funding is both inadequate and inequitable, referring to the more severe underfunding of poorer school districts compared to their wealthier counterparts.

 

Governor Abbott recently took note of the fact that not one Texas school figures on the list of the top 10 universities in the country. He proposed to use moneys left in the cronyism-riddled technology fund created by Rick Perry to fund research at Texas universities. This is more than a feel good idea, it is actually a good idea, but not near enough to solve pressing problems in the Texas education system.

 

University of Texas President Bill Powers said recently (DMN, 2/5/15) that students may face higher tuition rates if state funding stays flat or decreases. College tuition is already beyond the reach of most kids. They come out of school with massive debt that takes years to pay off. While Republicans advocate fiscal responsibility in order to avoid crippling the next generation with debt, they seem blissfully unaware of the fact that their policies are doing exactly that, at least for most of us who are not trust fund babies.

 

It seems to us that Governor Abbott is taking the short, expedient view: let’s capitalize on the current economic boom in Texas, let’s ride the wave for as long as we can. The long view, and in our opinion the preferable view, is that a strong economy needs an educated population, and we would rather it were homegrown. Already, rising tuition in Texas is creating a mini brain-drain to adjoining states offering in-state tuition for Texans graduating near the top of their class.

 

Education is the best example of a long game. Ideally, it should start as a partnership between parents and well-funded schools – and it should start early, as the merits of pre-K have been well studied. We would urge Governor Abbott to put Texas children ahead of business interests in the State. Last we checked, business in Texas is doing very well, thank you.

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