Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Texas Legislature: Beating To-Arms in a Race to the Cliff

Well it’s now my turn to say “told ya so.” Grandma had her “told ya so” moment just after the state comptroller issued her revenue projection for the next two years, projecting not only less revenue than taken in over the past two years, but less revenue to take care of projected population increases.

A $27 billion dollar shortfall they say.

And last night the other shoe dropped as a first round budget proposal was released as the champagne glasses were clinking at inaugural balls in Austin.

Even before that we heard of pending layoffs of 8,000 state employees. My words at the time were, I believe: “what do you call 8,000 unemployed state employees? Only the beginning.”

I hate quoting myself, but now we know that this dark prediction is very possibly a near-reality as we process what the Republican-dominated legislature is going to do to Texas this year.

They are going to sound the call-to-arms and march Texas right over a cliff.

Not only does the budget propose to cut $5 billion from what was previously allocated to education in the last budget cycle, they are going to require that school districts “forgo $9.8 billion owed to them under current school finance laws, such as money to cover growth in student enrollment.”

Pre-K education will receive a massive hit, affecting mainly lower economic level families in inner cities.

Republicans promise no new taxes to help balance the budget. They promise to leave the $9 billion "Rainy Day Fund" alone despite the prediction of golf ball-sized hail very, very, soon.

Public education, long a bane of the Republican Party – and considered socialistic by some – has now been laid on the sacrificial altar. A sacrifice to the gods of something-for-nothing taxpayers.

A Chron article, found here, cites the budget quandary that this puts Texas’ 3rd largest school district in. Cy-Fair ISD faces a budget deficit of a staggering $80 million.
“Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Superintendent David Anthony estimated that his district could lose $80 million under the budget blueprint.”

“‘That would significantly impact everything we do in the district," he said. The state's third largest school district has already cut more than $70 million, including some 800 positions, over the past four years.”

“‘We're very lean already,’ Anthony said. ‘Future cuts will impact the services we provide. We want to maintain quality. If you continue additional pressure and cuts, eventually it breaks.’”
But what now seems apparent is that the state legislature is not kicking this can down the road, as they say, they are kicking the can into school board hearing rooms. If what Superintendent Anthony says is true, there is nothing more to cut without cutting meat and bone.

So what do you do when you are offered this devil’s dilemma?

Some districts, I believe, will get the bone saws out. Cy-Fair seems to be doing the only thing that makes sense. When the legislature refuses to take the heat in a tax hike, the local school boards will have to step up and do the right thing.

From The Chron:
“Homeowners in the Cypress-Fairbanks school district would see their property tax bills jump some 30 percent under Superintendent David Anthony’s proposal to revoke the homestead exemption while also raising the tax rate.”

Anthony told the school board and dozens of residents Tuesday night that the district can no longer afford to offer the popular, optional tax break under Texas’ school funding system, which is especially rough on fast-growing school systems such as Cy-Fair.”
And what are Cy-Fair taxpayers going to do about getting charged hundreds of dollars more per year for their children’s education? Scream bloody murder?



Math, I guess, isn’t their strong suit.

I blame Texas Education for this failure to produce mastery levels in arithmetic competence.

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