Dancing around school funding

 

Since the Texas Supreme Court gave the legislative majority the green light to continue under-funding public education, school superintendents know they – and their employees and students — likely are in for a rough time during next year’s legislative session. Not only will the fight over additional school funding be tough, but misguided ideologues also will be out in force trying to steal education money for vouchers and other privatization schemes.

At an education forum sponsored by the Dallas Regional Chamber last week, Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said his district needs more money for a number of needs, including pre-K, early college credits for high school students and teacher pay. But Hinojosa, according to a story reported by KERA, wasn’t optimistic.

“The thing I need is for the state to do no harm,” Hinojosa said. “That’s a Hippocratic oath. But I got a feeling…that we’re not going to get any more money.”

State Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who also attended the forum, expressed concern about the gap between white and minority students on college entrance exams and said that gap was particularly alarming because minority kids now make up a majority of the enrollment in Texas public schools.

“I want all of my brothers and sisters to experience success,” Morath was quoted as saying. “But you don’t actually have to care about children to recognize that education and addressing these gaps is the single most pressing existential issue that the state of Texas faces.”

If Morath called for more school funding, it wasn’t reported. I doubt that he did since the Texas Education Agency already has recommended that the Legislature actually cut $2.1 billion from state funding for public education over the next two years and transfer more of the school tax burden to local property owners. The cut in the Foundation School Program to reflect rising property values is a requirement of state law, but state law can be changed.

Meanwhile, Texas will continue to spend about $2,700 less per student that the national average.

Morath doesn’t control the purse strings, but an education commissioner who really cares about boosting educational opporitunities for all of Texas school children should be an advocate for adequate funding – funding to put more kids in pre-K, funding for smaller class sizes and funding for other improvements so critical to classroom success. He knows those improvements aren’t free.

At the Dallas forum, KERA reported, Morath called on people across Texas to demand improvements in their public schools. For starters, the public should demand that Morath get in the Legislature’s face over funding.

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