TSTA: There is No Free Lunch for Schools

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Note: Starting today, the Burnt Orange Report will be posting opinion pieces each Sunday from elected officials, advocacy groups, and experts from our progressive community in Texas. If you represent any of these, or any other potential contributor, don't hesitate to contact us about posting a piece on a Sunday.

First up is the Texas State Teachers Association's take on the plight of Williamson County schools.

Whether they like it or not, suburban Austin voters in Williamson County are about to be reminded there is no such thing as a free lunch. This Republican-dominated county voted overwhelmingly (almost 59 percent) to re-elect Gov. Rick Perry two years ago, presumably because most voters liked his conservative, anti-tax record and rhetoric. The county also voted for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by a wide margin and elected two Republican state representatives, Charles Schwertner and Larry Gonzales.

True to form, Perry demanded deep cuts in the public education budget. The legislative majority, including Schwertner and Gonzales, obeyed and slashed $5.4 billion from public school funding, while leaving more than $7 billion unspent in the Rainy Day Fund. Dewhurst guided the budget through the Senate by engineering a parliamentary maneuver to overpower opposition.

Consequently, school districts throughout Texas, including Williamson County, have responded by laying off teachers, cramming children into overcrowded classrooms and, in some cases, even closing schools. Hutto ISD in Williamson County decided to close one elementary school this summer.

Perry, Dewhurst, Schwertner, Gonzales and others brag about holding the line on state taxes, but they have simply passed the buck. To avoid even deeper cuts in educational services, many school districts have been asking local voters for property tax increases, and Williamson County is no exception.

Voters in Hutto ISD rejected a local tax increase last year, but budget-strapped school trustees are trying again. They have scheduled a Sept. 1 election to raise school maintenance taxes by 13 cents per $100 valuation, twice the increase they sought last year. If this election also fails, other cuts to Hutto schools will be looming.

Other Williamson County districts – including Georgetown, Taylor and Florence — also are considering tax elections, as reported in the story linked below.

No, folks, there is no such thing as a free lunch. But elections do have consequences.

The Texas State Teachers Association is the state's professional organization affiliated with the National Education Association.

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