When we allow fear to drive our decisions, we get fearful results. I have lived in this state all of my 75 years. Until the last decade, I have been a proud Texan. However, Texas’ consistent negligence of the welfare of children dismays me.
Reasons for Dismay
In 2011, the Texas Legislature cut more than $5 billion from public education. For the seventh time in the last twenty-five years, the Texas Supreme Court must convene for hearings on school finance. More than 600 districts currently seek assistance. Governor Abbott asks the judges to reverse the decision made by District Judge John Dietz who ruled in favor of schools a year ago. At that time, Judge Dietz stated that Texas needs an additional $2,000.00 per child to meet our own state standards.Although Abbott claims that the legislature increased funding for schools during this session, the increase does not even equal the rate of inflation. In addition, the old conflict between property rich and property poor districts remains unsolved. The difference in available money for rich and poor schools equals more than $50,000 for each classroom. Think what this could mean to classroom teachers who habitually spend their own money to obtain needed materials.
What Results Do We Now See?
What does this really mean for children and for teachers?
Although student enrollment continues to increase by 80,000 a year, we have at least 3,700 fewer teachers than before the massive cut in 2011.
Sixty percent of our student population lives in poverty. Seventeen percent have limited English proficiency. Both situations create higher needs and greater expenses.
Research studies strongly support reducing class sizes to achieve maximum gains per child. Unfortunately, the state continues to approve waivers allowing more than 22 children per teacher.
STAAR results appear to have flattened in the last two years. Successes remain in the 70th
Texas still ranks 38th in the nation by spending $9,559 per student compared to the national average of $12,040.
Let’s Make It Personal
My grandchildren attend schools with Parent Teacher Associations that pick up the bill for educational opportunities not funded by the state. Their schools sit in neighborhoods where parents make certain children get educational experiences, technology, books, and conversations about the importance of learning.
In another part of town, schools do not have strong parent groups. Parents, who do the best they can with limited income, simply cannot finance needs left unmet by the state. Children lack personal experiences that can be gained from vacations, books, computers, and all the educational advantages that money provides. When Texas lawmakers fail to adequately fund schools, these children suffer. Children who need the most receive the least.
Fearful attitudes concerning lack of money currently drive legislative decisions. If we fail to provide premier education for all children in Texas, the outcome will be far more fearful than any current concerns about money. Today’s children will quickly become tomorrow’s leaders.
Collier, Kiah. “2011 Budget Cuts Still Hamper Schools, Data Shows. The Texas Tribune. August 2015.
———-. “Sate Asks Supreme Court to drop School Finance Lawsuit.” TRIB+EDUC. Sept. 2015.
———-. “2011 Budget Cuts Still Hamper Schools, Data Shows.” TRIB+EDUC. Sept. 2015.
“Otto Touts Plan to Simplify School Finance System.” Texas Tribune. February 2015.
Stutz, Terrence. “Texas Supreme Court to Again Hear That State is Shortchanging Schools.” Dallas Morning News. August 2015.