Last week the HChron reported that School districts statewide cut 25,000 positions after budget cuts.
Visit public schools across Texas, and you’ll see more students packed into classrooms. You’ll see fewer of just about everyone else – teachers, librarians, counselors, janitors.
New data from the Texas Education Agency illustrate what school officials have decried for months: Their staffs are stretched thin following the unprecedented state budget cuts that took effect this school year.
Statewide, districts eliminated roughly 25,000 positions, including more than 10,700 teaching jobs. Overall, districts cut their workforce by 4 percent – through attrition and, in some cases, layoffs – since last school year.
“I’m hoping the Legislature will see there’s hard data showing that, yes, districts are making some good decisions in terms of efficiencies,” said Bob Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit that analyzed the state figures. “But the Legislature should be very worried that in the haste to be more efficient we are cutting our future out from under us.”
Tip to Kuff on this and as he points out, there’s more bad news to come.
Remember that the cuts from the 2011 budget are somewhat backloaded for the second year of the biennium, so there’s more of this to come. This is why HISD is grappling with its budget again, and is considering a property tax rate hike as one option to close another multi-million dollar shortfall. Don’t like that idea, or the other things they’re considering? Blame Rick Perry and the Legislature for putting them in that position. And yes, it could have been so much worse.
The budget the House passed would have $7.8 billion from public education. Every House Republican voted for that budget. The economic news in Texas is getting better, but we’re going to keep getting more of the same from the Lege for as long as we have the same Lege.
The increase in natural gas and oil production taxes accounted for 14.9 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, of the increase in total tax collections. With the substantial increases in both severance taxes, each revenue source now exceeds the revenue level required to begin accumulating transfers to the Economic Stabilization Fund (the Rainy Day Fund or ESF). It is likely that instead of the estimated FY13 ESF transfer of $1.1 billion, the transfer will now be over $2.0 billion. This should result in an estimated $8.5 billion balance being available for the 83rd Legislature.
While there are many problems that come along with this increase in revenue from fracking, (Marathon Oil flaring shale gas in the Eagle Ford Shale and Roads Killed: Texas Adds Up Damages from Drilling), the least we could do is use that money to keep from making deeper cuts in public education this year. Perry and the Texas GOP have the power to keep more education cuts from happening next year, and so far, they have chosen not to act.
In today’s AAS Jason Embry has this article, Education backlash could fuel turnover in the Legislature.
More than a dozen Republicans and Democrats who have sat on school boards are running for the Texas House this year, and a backlash over spending cuts and standardized testing might help them get there.
Legislators sliced per-student spending last year, prompting schools to trim programs, increase class sizes and enact new fees. The publicity surrounding those cuts could persuade voters to change their representation in Austin, particularly if the alternative is a candidate seen as friendlier to public schools.
“We’re saying it’s time to bring in a significant number of new legislators,” said Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent Political Action Committee, which endorses and helps candidates who it deems pro-education.
Boyle said her group plans to back an equal number of Republican and Democratic candidates in legislative races this year. A similar strategy worked in 2006, when groups representing parents, teachers and others helped at least 10 candidates defeat incumbents or win open seats in the Legislature.
But finding such success again this year won’t be easy. For one, those who vocally support more money for schools risk turning off voters who are most concerned about government spending, particularly in Republican primaries. Plus, an unusually late primary date this year – May 29 – has introduced uncertainty about who the voters will be.
Let’s hope history repeats itself. The last time the Texas GOP started a right wing assault public education it lead to several cycles of losses for the GOP in the Texas House. Which essentially ended Tom Craddick’s reign as House Speaker and being replaced by Joe Straus.
Public education has been one of the few areas where Democrats have been able to make inroads against the GOP over the last decade. The upcoming primary and general election will go a long way in determining whether public education is still sacrosanct in Texas. Or will is just be defunded like so many other public services we once saw as crucial to the survival of our democracy.
See you Saturday!