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Abbott Trashes Klein School District To Promote His Voucher Agenda

Gov. Greg Abbott often highlights the appeal of Texas due to its low taxes and business-friendly environment, but do his policies truly align with fostering rapid growth? Or does he prioritize initiatives like school vouchers over expansion when they conflict?

In recent weeks, Klein ISD, a rapidly expanding and highly rated school district in Texas, has encountered adversity. Instances such as a teacher’s arrest for sex trafficking and the disappearance of a nonverbal autistic child have underscored the challenges faced by the district’s overcrowded campuses.

Gov. Abbott saw this as an opportunity to attack Texas public schools and tout his “school choice”’ agenda.

“What some of our educators are doing is criminal and disgusting. No child should be compelled by the state to be in a school like this. And yet, current law doesn’t allow the choice to go elsewhere. I’m working to elect state representatives who will change that,” he wrote on X.

A few months ago, four of Klein ISD’s high schools were honored among the “Best High Schools in the US” by the U.S. News & World Report for the 2022-2023 academic year, affirming their commitment to academic excellence.

In addition, despite pandemic challenges, Klein ISD showed significant improvement in state accountability ratings since 2019. In 2022, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath highlighted Nitsch Elementary’s exceptional progress, with its rating rising from 71 pre-pandemic to 95 today.

Klein ISD finds itself amid the challenges of managing a rapidly expanding student population while facing budgetary strains. With nearly 20,000 additional students enrolled over the past two decades, the district grapples with accommodating growth, especially considering the majority of its students now come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, a significant shift from just 10% in 2003, as first reported by The Houston Chronicle.

This strain was evident in the struggle to pass a balanced budget for the 2023-2024 school year, a challenge shared by many school districts across Texas.

“We have a strong reserve, so we’ve been able to adopt a balanced budget this year, which, looking around, there weren’t too many of those,” Klein ISD’s Chief Financial Officer, Dan Schaefer said.

During the fourth special session lawmakers had the opportunity to approve a bill that would have given around $6 billion to public schools. However, the bill died without a vote due to Gov. Abbott’s threats that no public school funding would be passed if vouchers weren’t included.

As a result, a discernible trend took shape among Independent School Districts, with an increasing number reporting budget deficits.

“​​Educators and their students now pay the price for Abbott’s broken promises to fix school funding, despite a record $32.7 billion budget surplus that we have because of President Joe Biden. In the past week alone, Fort Worth ISD has been forced to lay off 133 employees and Spring Branch ISD has announced it will lay off their entire staff of librarians district-wide,” wrote State Senator Roland Gutierrez in a press release in February.  

This situation suggests a potential misalignment in Gov. Abbott’s priorities. As public schools struggle without funding from the state’s surplus, his focus remains on voucher initiatives and electoral campaigns. This prompts scrutiny regarding the extent to which his priorities align with the needs of Texas and his personal preferences.

Staff
Staff
Written by RA News staff.

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