No matter how much money the state of Texas brings in our current state leaders, and the Texas GOP have no intention of ever restoring funding for public education. Texas’ GOP budget writers are in no hurry to restore billions cut from schools.
Republican leaders heading into the new legislative session say they are in no hurry to undo billions of dollars in cuts to public schools made two years ago.
Despite pressure from teacher groups and others, top lawmakers cited holes they must patch in the current budget, a general caution about higher spending and a desire to see how courts rule in the latest suit over how the state funds education.
Many school districts, pointing to an improved Texas economy, are seeking relief. But key budget-writers say the initial two-year plan they’ll unveil soon won’t replace the $5.4 billion the last Legislature sliced from state maintenance and operation aid and discretionary grants.
That means no substantial help to handle bigger classes and no restored grants for half-day prekindergarten and remedial instruction, decisions that are expected to rekindle tensions with school advocates calling for more money.
“The introduced bill won’t have that,” though it may include an additional $1 billion or so to cover student enrollment growth, said Rep. Jim Pitts, the Waxahachie Republican who heads the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
Pitts said he expects Comptroller Susan Combs’ two-year revenue estimate, which limits what lawmakers can spend, “to be pretty conservative, and so we’re being very conservative.”
Sen. Tommy Williams, who recently became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he’s skeptical of claims by teacher organizations that the cuts have “devastated” schools.
Some Republicans’ patience with superintendents and district officials may be wearing thin.
“I don’t like it, I’m not crazy about the school districts’ suing the state,” Williams said. “They’d be a lot better served if they’d come down here and try to work this out.”
Linda Bridges, president of the Texas AFT teachers’ union, said the education lobby decided not to sue before the 2011 session and was hammered with budget cuts.
She said some classrooms today have as many as 40 children, and grants have been eliminated for programs to improve student success, even as lawmakers demand reductions in dropout rates and higher test scores.
The Legislature, whether run by Democrats or Republicans, rarely has boosted spending in great numbers without a court edict threatening the unthinkable, such as closure of the state’s more than 9,000 public schools, Bridges said.
“It doesn’t seem they know how to respond to issues like this without being forced to by a court,” she said.
Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said GOP leaders probably are posturing, comparing it to the initial House proposal two years ago for $9 billion in school cuts.
“The story became the restoration of some of the cuts instead of focusing on how can we cut $5.4 billion from education in a school system that we’re holding to higher and higher standards,” said Strama, a member of the Public Education Committee.
“That was actually a smart political strategy to sell a dumb public policy.”
Strama said Republican leaders may ease up some when a final budget starts taking shape.
Don’t count on it, though, said Rep. Charles Perry, a Lubbock Republican who, with tea party support, upset an ally to Speaker Joe Straus two years ago — and then beat him again in a primary rematch this year.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “We’re not going to do any restoration.”
Strama is right about the ploy from last session – propose deep cuts at first, and then lessen those cuts in the end to make them look better. But the GOP has no intention of ever putting that money back. It will take another party in power to put that money back.
The Texas GOP haven’t spent decades gaining control of our state government, starting to implement their agenda, just to start rolling it back once the economy improves. The only thing that will restore public education in Texas will be changing who we elect in Texas.