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Abbott’s Inaction On School Funding Hurts Conservative School Boards Backing His Policies

Despite being on the same page with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, recently-elected conservative school boards are finding themselves hamstrung by his inaction on school funding.

These school boards, which share the Governor’s vision for education policy, are struggling to meet the needs of their districts due to inadequate financial support from the state. Despite having a historic budget surplus and the longest legislative session in history (246 days), lawmakers passed only 10% of education bills, largely because of Abbott’s obsession with vouchers.

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 Abbott’s threats that vouchers had to be included.

After his failure in the Legislature, Abbott took his voucher fight to the voting booths, where he used billions of dollars to unseat rural Republican legislators who voted against his voucher agenda. Abbott succeeded in ousting six out of the eight seats he went after.

His efforts sent a message that those who did not unflinchingly support his priorities would face grave political repercussions. However, while his full attention lies on his vendetta, Texas public school districts are feeling the neglect.

Despite conservative dominance, all Texas school districts are struggling due to the lack of adequate financial support from the state, highlighting a disconnect between the governor’s educational priorities and the practical needs of schools.

Let’s take a look at some of the school districts that currently present budget deficits:

Houston ISD: The school district is currently facing personnel cuts, including teachers, as they estimate an upcoming $450 million budget shortfall.

“Right now I don’t have a firm number because we are in the middle of non-renewals but also teachers making their own decisions too,” Superintendent Mike Miles said, adding that principals are currently assessing data to make decisions regarding which teachers should return.

Northside ISD: While district staff suggests they can manage for this school year, they stress that the massive shortfall will require legislative intervention. This is particularly concerning given that this ISD is the area’s largest school system, with over 100,000 students.

They are currently considering a 2% raise for employees that increases its expected deficit to nearly $99.5 million in the coming fiscal year.

– Northeast ISD: Last year, NEISD celebrated modest pay raises to stay competitive. This year, that triumph turned into a financial crisis, as the district now faces a $38 million budget deficit.

To address the shortfall, the district has proposed a one-time 1% retention bonus instead of a raise.

Frisco ISD:  Without additional state funding, FISD officials anticipate using rainy day funds to mitigate a $30.8 million shortfall.

However, according to Kimberly Smith, FISD chief finance and strategy officer, if these funds are significantly depleted and the legislature does not provide more funding, the district may face additional cuts. Potential measures include eliminating teacher wellness days and increasing secondary class sizes by an average of four students, among other possibilities. 

– Ector County ISD: This district is facing a $24 million budget deficit.

In June 2023, the board approved $345 million in expenditures, with about $13.9 million coming from the fund balance.

“In fact, we gave our staff a raise that created the deficit fully expecting the state to fund that and it didn’t happen. We can’t make that kind of decision again and so we’ve got to figure out how we compensate for (that),” Muri said.

Those are just a few examples of districts grappling with financial challenges. Many more across Texas, such as Denton ISD, Leander ISD, San Marcos CISD, Ysleta ISD, Waco ISD, McAllen ISD, Harlandale ISD, Tomball ISD, Dayton ISD, Argyle ISD, Pine Tree ISD, Seminole ISD, Denver City ISD, Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD, South San ISD, Austin ISD, Midland ISD, Socorro ISD, Judson ISD, Plano ISD, San Antonio ISD, and Spring ISD, are also facing significant budget deficits.

As these boards grapple with the budget constraints, the disconnect between Abbott’s policies and his commitment to supporting those who share his agenda becomes increasingly apparent.

Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios, a Mexican-American Politics Reporter and Managing Editor at RA's Gun Violence Watch, unveils the Capitol's inner workings. Focused on Public Education and Gun Policies, she passionately advocates for informed dialogue, delivering concise, impactful insights into the intricate political landscape.


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