Texas Taxpayers Invest in Education, Texas Legislature Does Not

by Dr. Jerry R. Burkett
Originally Published: November 17, 2011

There is a public school in Portland, Oregon, that recently hired an interim principal to oversee the school’s performance season. I’m not talking about test season; I am talking about performing arts.  The school’s principal holds advanced degrees “from the Royal Academy of Dance, London, and has danced professionally in Germany. He plans to teach dance at least once a month.” In addition to their middle school curriculum, the students focus on choir, band, jazz, rock, and art. In Texas, some school districts have considered cutting fine arts programs in response to $5 billion in education budget cuts.

Meanwhile, here in Texas, students at Cedar Hill High School were forced to go home because of a broken air conditioner. The school district is struggling to pay for repairs to their buildings due to cuts to education from the state.  Cedar Hill ISD attempted to raise money through a Tax Rate Election and a bond, but their voters turned down the package. The district will now have to use funds normally reserved for teachers, supplies, and benefits to repair schools so students are safe.

In Sarasota County, Florida, there is currently an effort to expand the school district’s career and technical education programs. The focus is increasing and enriching the science, technology, engineering, and science (STEM) curriculums for all students.  Currently, over ½ of all middle school students are enrolled in a STEM program. In Texas, some school districts are working to repair broken laptops and extend current technology to ensure that it will last through the next budget cycle.

In Kentucky, a high school has recently opened a medical training facility for their students. In Texas, our state, school districts are being forced to sue the state legislature for equity and adequacy in school funding for all districts. Forward thinking ideas like this for Texas schools are now an afterthought as district face their 2012-2013 budgets with concern as a second round of education cuts loom.

In Texas, our state, school districts across the state sent 6,500 class waiver requests to the Texas Education Agency for permission to exceed the state mandated 22-1 student-to-teacher ratio. These requests are in response to $5 billion in education cuts in the state. In some cases, there are upwards to 40 students in Texas in middle school and high school classrooms where there is no state mandated cap. Fewer teachers mean more students in classrooms. It also means less learning, more discipline problems, overcrowding, limited resources, and decreased safety.

This is good enough for your children?

For Texas property owners, you will continue to pay your school property tax bill while your local schools and children continue to receive less. Less teachers, less supplies, less athletics, less bus routes, less tutoring opportunities, less space, less time, less money. In fact, if you have a child entering school this year or next year, there are NO additional funds from the state, as required by the state constitution, to fund your child’s education.

The state of Texas stopped paying their bill.

Texas is open for business (in more ways than one)!  More people are moving to this state than any other in the United States.  For those of you from California, Massachusetts, Florida, Oklahoma, and beyond; if you are bringing your children here, THERE ARE NO FUNDS TO EDUCATE THEM.

Texas didn’t fund for student growth.

Texas residents have done their part. It’s time the legislature did theirs. Texas schools are suing for what is constitutionally required while other states can fund medical schools and dance academies.

Isn’t it time that your school and your children receive the education and the resources that you are paying for without you having to provide more money out of your pocket? More time from your family? More stress? More traffic? Less opportunities for your children?

The state primaries are March 6. These are the questions you should ask the candidates who want to represent you.