A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A proud day for Texas....

...although that state is certainly not alone in its foolishness. Texas has now cut $2 billion from its education spending in one fell swoop:
The Texas House and Senate on Tuesday evening sent Governor Rick Perry a bill that cuts $4 billion from public schools over two years.

Balancing the state's 2012-2013 budget -- as required by the Texas Constitution -- depended on the passage of the school finance measure, which would delay payments to districts and reduce the amount the law says the state must pay districts. The state has a two-year budget cycle.

"We have to pass (Senate Bill 1) to fund our schools," House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, a Republican, said during debate on the measure earlier this month, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

But Democratic state Representative Mike Villarreal of San Antonio called the bill the "final nail in the coffin" for Texas schools.
"This legislature will go down in the history books as the worst for public education in a generation," Villarreal said in a statement on Tuesday.

Republicans have the majority in both chambers.

Perry, a Republican who has said he is thinking of running for president, signed the $172 billion state budget into law in mid-June. It spends $15 billion less than the last budget cycle.

The school finance bill died at the end of the regular legislative session in late May after a filibuster by a Democratic senator, Wendy Davis, who objected to the school cuts. Perry then called lawmakers into a special session to resolve the school finance issue.

The last day of the special session is Wednesday. The House is scheduled to meet then, but the Senate wrapped up on Tuesday.

Davis and other Democrats said the cuts to schools would be devastating, leading to teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. But Republicans said the school finance measure was necessary in order to ensure a budget that did not raise taxes or dip into the state's estimated $6.5 billion rainy day fund.

That's what was left in the fund after lawmakers, with Perry's blessing, did approve spending about a third of the reserve, funded by a tax on the state's oil and natural gas production, to close a deficit in the 2011 budget.

The state's budget cuts came in the face of a shortfall partly due to the economic downturn and partly due to the state's reliance on one-time money, including federal stimulus dollars, in 2010-2011. Also, a reconfigured state business tax designed to pay for 2006 school property tax cuts did not generate as much as expected.

I like the Orwellian idea of paying for schools by cutting the money for them. I also like the fact that the new business tax didn't work out as planned. Of course, it depends upon who is doing the planning.

The foolishness in this is that education spending is an investment, and investment is one huge economic problem in this country. Our corporations get tax breaks but do not invest in new jobs in this country. Our states need educated workers but are not willing to invest in education. Many of our students need a good education but do not believe that they need to invest any effort in it themselves-- instead our current education bureaucracy places all its investment in punishing schools for having diverse populations to serve.

It's a vicious cycle.

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At 6/29/11, 12:50 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Yep, I'm in Florida and we are facing the same thing. It's very disheartening and makes no sense. I can only hope the pendulum swings back the other way, but I don't think it will happen any time soon. The politicians won't listen to reason and will be more than willing to punish schools and teachers for many years before they dare to admit they might have been wrong.

At 7/5/11, 3:32 PM, Blogger cbinsa said...

As a teacher and a life-long resident of the, now pathetic, State of Texas I have been appalled by the behavior of our legislature during the last 6 months. While there are several additional facts that you don't address in this post the only one I want to point out is that if anyone says that "teachers" won't be affected by the State's recent actions, they are lying and/or deluding themselves. I am one of the ones to be affected. Not only was I transferred out of my "dream" job (of 12 months) I'm taking a $3,000 cut in pay because of it. There are 50 other teachers in the exact same situation in my district and hundreds others in similar situations. Many of our good legislators don't understand that there will be thousands of teachers in Texas who will change what they do because of these changes and thus our students will receive lesser educations as a result.


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