Texas Republicans promised to address the $27 billion budget shortfall through budget cuts only, and without the use of the so-called Rainy Day Fund or without raising new revenue. Republican lawmakers have talking about spreading the pain and sharing the burden, but the truth is that the burden of the budget cuts (which were created by the way due to the policies of Texas Republicans over the last decade) is not being shared equally among all Texans. In fact Republicans are placing a significant burden on future Texans. Through deep cuts in education Republicans are placing the burden of their failed economic policies on the backs of future generations.
The Texas Independent reports that the House budget proposal would reduced public education funding by $3.1 billion (9.1%). This would also include a budget cut to the Foundation School Program which would be $9.8 billion below scheduled formula requirements after accounting for student population growth, and cutting other programs by two-thirds, including teacher incentive pay and pre-K grants, in addition to increasing the maximum student-teacher ratio in elementary schools. The Senate budget proposal would provide more funding for public education; $500 million more to the Permanent School Fund (leaving a shortfall of $9.3 billion), plus $400 million to help salvage funding for programs in areas including pre-K, high school completion and college readiness.
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These budget cuts will put further strain on a Texas education system that has fallen behind the rest of the country over the last decade. The Dallas Morning News reported that National Education Association report found that Texas has dropped sharply below the national average in per-pupil spending in the last ten years. Texas could fall further below the average after sustaining as much as $5 billion in cuts to education during the budget process. During the last school year Texas spent $9,227 per student, which is $1,359 below the national average. Texas ranks 37th in spending per student, and ten years ago, Texas ranked 25th and was $281 below the national average. Not only does Texas spend less on students, but less on teachers. The NEA report found that Texas teachers rank 31st in the country with an average salary of $48,261, which is $7,000 less than the national average of $55,202 last year.
Deep cuts to education are not only short sighted, but they are bad for business. A strong public education system is the foundation for future economic growth and development. It doesn't matter how low taxes are, or how few regulations there are. If Texas has a low tax burden and business friendly regulatory environment, but an uneducated workforce then it will undermine the future economic success of the state. Undermining the education system undermines the workforce which undermines the wage base which undermines the tax base with undermines the education system. Simply put economies with a significant supply of skilled labor, created through a public school education system, are able to capitalize through the development of more value-added high tech industries.
So why would Republican lawmakers in Austin promote policies that prevent future Texans from competing for quality jobs and undermine the Texas economy? Ideological rigidity and campaign rhetoric is at play, as Republicans promised Texans to address the budget shortfall without new taxes (that is without taxing the current generation of Texans). An inability to connect the dots is also at play, as lawmakers are unable or unwilling to grasp the fact that a strong public education system has a direct correlation to a strong economy. For the most part I think it is because 3rd graders do not have a lobby and do not donate to political campaigns. While teachers unions or other interest groups that support public education will lobby against deep cuts in education, Republicans have spent years undermining those groups. Let's face it, if kids from public schools in Texas had the same influence on Governor Perry and Texas Republican legislatures as big business and corporations then this would be a whole different conversation.
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