A decision by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on how School Land Board resources are allocated could result in a $140 million cut in public education funding, according to the State Board of Education (SBOE) in an article in the Austin American-Statesman.
At issue is Bush’s decision to donate $655 million of land board monies raised from mineral rights on public lands into the Available School Fund, instead of the Permanent School Fund as per usual.
The Permanent School Fund backs construction bonds for school districts and charter schools, allowing them to pay lower interest rates. Critics say by not providing these funds will hurt the funds’ abilities to help schools with their construction costs, and will hurt future return on investment.
According to the Statesman, last week the SBOE voted to transfer $450 million less from the Permanent Fund to the Available Fund in its 2020-21 budget than it did in the 2018-19 budget because of the anticipated cut to Permanent Fund monies. Despite the $600 million from the land board, this will still mean a $140 million decrease in the Available Fund compared to the current budget. This loss of funding is especially worrisome as new curricula being introduced in 2020 will require new English and Spanish language textbooks throughout the state.
Republican members of the SBOE have accused Bush of making the move to enhance his chances of reelection. David Bradley, R-Beaumont, criticized Bush for transferring money directly into the available fund, which pays for textbooks and other supplies, in a manner that will hurt the overall education budget while he runs for reelection touting the amount of money he, and the General Land Office, have put into education.
This is the kind of budgetary shell game which hurts Texas schoolchildren. Instead of effectively investing in our next generation of thinkers, leaders, and workers, Austin policymakers are moving our money around to help themselves look good for elections. We need our policymakers to put students first. We need to Reform Austin.