Texas’ budget writers will start out the new year billions of dollars short.
With the 2021 legislative session set to open on January 12, lawmakers are preparing to write a new state budget amid significant monetary constraints which may portend cuts to state education funding.
At the end of the previous legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed what was touted as one of the most transformative Texas education bills in recent history. House Bill 3 was designed to support teachers and create incentives for teacher excellence, and expanded early childhood education, while simultaneously reducing and reforming local property taxes for Texas taxpayers.
The bill did not, however, create an alternate revenue source needed to maintain the property tax relief or the additional funds for public education.
Now as the Texas lege faces pressure to cut state investments, taxpayers, parents, and educators fear the consequences for Texas families and students.
Recent disclosures by school districts across the state show Texas’ students are failing and budget cuts will only exacerbate the academic losses students have suffered during pandemic induced shutdowns and the ineffectiveness of some remote learning protocols.
Despite this alarming drop in Texas student performance, education does not seem to be at the top of the legislative agenda. Most of the pre-session posturing appears to focus on policing, health care access, pandemic response, medical marijuana, and criminal justice reform to name a few.
For those who do prioritize education and progress for Texas students, their top legislative priorities include:
- Maintaining school spending levels set by House Bill 3, which allocated an additional $6.5 billion into public education during the current two-year budget.
- Guaranteeing broadband access to Texas students, which is even more critical for a pandemic-driven remote learning environment.
- Passing along the federal funding set aside for coronavirus pandemic relief to Texas’ school districts.
- Holding the line against diversion of education funding to non-public schools.
- Significant investment in PPE and pandemic preparedness for every district and campus in the state.
- Funding for more educators as social distancing imposes the need for smaller class sizes.
- Clarity from the state about the effective measurement of student achievement and progress for the next few academic years.
Public Education is not an end unto itself. It is an investment in the future workforce, in stronger and safer communities, and in healthier Texas families. If the legislature fails to properly invest in education in this session, the compounded impact of COVID-19, poor standards, and weak investment will jeopardize the futures of an entire generation of Texas students and risk our future prosperity. Texas taxpayers must hold their legislators accountable for pursuing, promoting, and passing an effective education agenda.