Education

‘The Cavalry Isn’t Coming,’ Texas Doesn’t Care About Public Schools

Despite having a historic budget surplus, and 246 days in session — the longest legislative session in history — lawmakers only passed 10% of education bills, thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott’s obsession with vouchers.

Keller ISD Superintendent Tracy Johnson told Community Impact that with the unprecedented surplus the state could still fix the school financing problem today with a fifth special legislative session. 

“Our state doesn’t care about our kids,” Johnson said. “The cavalry isn’t coming. Keller ISD has to fix our problem. If we don’t get this fixed right now this year, we run the risk of not having a Keller ISD.”

Keller ISD is grappling with a daunting $28 million budget deficit, underscoring a broader trend as numerous school districts contend with financial challenges.

The fiscal strain experienced by KISD reflects a larger issue affecting education funding across various districts. The Wise County Messenger said it best, for the past months, a common headline has been: [Insert school district name here] adopts a deficit budget.

Other ISD’s that are facing a deficit include:

In the current climate, a consensus emerges among superintendents as they universally acknowledge the pressing need for increased funding. Frustration is palpable as these educational leaders recognize the state’s financial capacity to address these needs but observe a delay in allocating resources thanks to vouchers.

Since 2019, the Texas Legislature hasn’t changed its per pupil spending. But everything else, fuel, electricity, supplies, materials have gone up 17% or more in the last five years, according to the Consumer Price Index. 

“It’s a totally different world, but we’re still expected to operate on 2019 dollars,” Johnson said.

The upcoming primaries are poised to provide insights into the trajectory of the ongoing voucher debate. Gov. Abbott is targeting rural Republicans who voted against his voucher proposal in the fourth special session.

According to an RA Insider source, there is speculation regarding Abbott’s ability to secure the necessary seat turnovers in the upcoming elections. This raises the question of whether a fifth special session will be convened.  

Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University, backs up this theory. Abbott faces a challenge as the Republican primary voters typically consist of those who have previously supported incumbent Republican candidates, “and no one single issue is likely to move them or defeat them,” Stein tells RA News. “This has been tried before with very little success.” Especially when looking at those congressional districts’ public and electorate’s opinion on school vouchers.

Rural communities have a historical resistance to vouchers, as public schools are the lifeblood of these areas, and defunding them would have a profound impact.

The outcome of such a session remains uncertain, but Texas ISD’s stand on education funding is clear.

“Our message to lawmakers has been clear: the state has significant revenue available to invest in public education, but its resources are not endless. All available resources should be prioritized toward public education so that the public schools which serve more than 90% of Texas students are funded at a sustainable level,” Superintendent of Plano ISD, Dr. Theresa Williams, told RA News.

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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