(AUSTIN) — Texas educators are asking state and legislative leaders to invest additional dollars in public education before the legislative session concludes on May 29.
While legislators have worked toward making some targeted investments in schools this session, key bills to improve education funding are languishing. As a result, schools are poised to see little benefit from the state’s $33 billion budget surplus.
Educators are grateful that a bipartisan, pro-education coalition in the Texas House has managed to prevent Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick from creating a large entitlement program that would send taxpayer dollars to private and home schools through Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which are also known as private-school vouchers. It appears that the few proponents of these education entitlement ESAs — again, most notably Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick — are holding meaningful public school funding hostage because their plan to move public taxpayer dollars to private schools is being opposed.
“It’s pretty clear what is happening here,” said Texas School Alliance President Brian Woods. “The Governor and Lieutenant Governor see that support is not there for private school entitlement ESA vouchers, so 5 million public school students are being punished. Our schools need the funding for a few core reasons: 1) to help curb the continuing mass exodus of teachers across Texas; 2) to fund the necessary support staff and resources for our special education students; and perhaps most importantly, 3) for safety and security upgrades to our campuses, including mental health and wellness. It has every appearance that Texas leaders are withholding meaningful public education funding increases until they get ESAs to benefit private schools.”
“I really hope Texans are disappointed when they learn that, at this time, meaningful education funding is being held hostage by those who want taxpayers to subsidize a new entitlement program to private and home schools,” said Texas School Alliance Executive Director HD Chambers. “The same people who have been so quick to criticize and blame our schools for all of society’s problems over the past year are now refusing to make the investments needed to help those schools succeed.”
Legislators are moving to spend nearly $20 billion to reduce school property taxes. While some have characterized these cuts as investments in public education, the reality is that dollars spent to pay for property-tax cuts do not increase the amount of money going into Texas classrooms. Instead, those state dollars simply replace local dollars that were previously being spent on public education.
“The Governor and the members of the Legislature are not giving schools the resources they need,” Woods said. “We know that time is running out, but we hope they will find a way to change course and make some real investments in public schools. Everyone knows that our schools are underfunded, and if that doesn’t start to change, Texans will want to know why.”