Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is the Texas Legislature Purposely Trying to Defund Public Education?

If you want a read on the Texas Legislature’s attitude toward its number one budget item (to the tune of 37% of the entire state budget) all you have to do is follow the money. And when you do you come to an inescapable conclusion that there are people in the Texas Legislature who believe that public education is undesirable if not unconstitutional.

True, the only ones who have voiced this idea with any real conviction are some real rabid political activists with strong leanings toward Libertarian ideals -  and Glenn Beck. But I can’t really believe that people currently behind a state budget plan to cut state education spending by a whopping $10 billion over a two-year period, the so-called biennial budget, are strong supporters of public education.

These projected budget shortfalls are essentially what amounts to broken promises as the state seems to be prepared to distribute less money to school districts all over Texas than is mandated by the state’s constitution. But it gets worse because the legislature, in 2006, also removed any ability by the local school districts to raise revenue by changing their property tax rates. Capped at $1.17 per $100 assessed value, many school districts cannot even get that rate because the legislature passed a law that requires school districts to submit any raise above $1.04 per $100 to the voters for approval.

And you know about the Texas “something for nothing” Taxpayers who think that they are Taxed Enough Already. Any ballot initiative to raise tax rates, even if it was to prop up an impacted school district, would be a stupendous waste of time and money.

The Texas Legislature has, in short, placed school districts all across Texas between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand it is withholding much-needed funds not only to educate its 3 million school children, but to take care of the additional 170,000 that will enter the education system in the next two years. And on the other hand, it prevents local districts to fend for themselves when they decline to provide them adequate funding.

School districts will have to resort to draconian measures to get themselves through this, including the laying off of a projected 100,000 educators. But that’s not all, because the school districts have less money to spend, their lack of spending also impacts their local economies.

If this isn’t a catalyst for a renewed dip in the economic health of the state and local areas, what is?

And if this isn’t an indication of how Texas legislators really and truly regard and value public education, what is?

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