| In testimony before the state Senate Finance Committee, Texas AFT legislative counsel Patty Quinzi today made the case for fully restoring the educational funding that was cut last session by the legislature.
Quinzi said: "Texas AFT urges you to recognize that this legislature has the ability, with the revenue available to you, to undo the damaging biennial cuts of $5.4 billion in public education enacted in 2011. And you can do so without any need to raise additional revenue for 2014-2015.
"As you know, in the last school year, the first year of the 2011 education cuts, more than 25,000 school-district jobs were eliminated according to TEA data, including more than 10,000 teaching positions. Waivers of class-size caps in grades K-4 to allow additional pupils per teacher more than tripled. All state grants for full-day pre-kindergarten were eliminated, along with nearly all Student Success Initiative funding, which had provided extra help for students struggling to pass state exams.
"The comptroller now has identified more than $113 billion available to you this session. That includes more than $101 billion in available general revenue and nearly $12 billion in the Economic Stabilization Fund. (The $101 billion is made up of $92.6 billion in available general revenue generated in 2014-2015 plus $8.8 billion in leftover revenue that was not anticipated in the last biennial revenue estimate, as Comptroller Combs has acknowledged.)
"As a result, you have a realistic opportunity in this session to undo the needless damage done to public education and other core public services such as health care in 2011. We join with a wide array of other organizations affiliated with the Texas Forward revenue coalition in urging you to seize this opportunity to restore the state's investment in our schoolchildren and in our state's future. With state revenue rebounding so dramatically, there is simply no good reason to sacrifice our children's and our state's future prospects by continuing the deep cuts of 2011 in the 2014-2015 budget."
Committee chair Tommy Williams, Republican of The Woodlands, laid out a hearing schedule that would bring a budget bill to the Senate floor by March 18. The next seven weeks will give us an opportunity to influence the committee's deliberations not just with testimony from your Texas AFT legislative spokespersons in Austin but you're your own grass-roots lobbying of these lawmakers. Here's the roster of the 15 senators who will need to hear from you before they send that budget bill to the full Senate in March:
Tommy Williams, chair, Republican of The Woodlands
Juan Hinojosa, vice-chair, Democrat of McAllen
Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville
Robert Duncan, Republican of Lubbock (also on Senate Education Committee)
Kevin Eltife, Republican of Tyler
Craig Estes, Republican of Wichita Falls
Glenn Hegar Jr., Republican of Katy
Joan Huffman, Republican of Houston
Eddie Lucio Jr., Democrat of Brownsville (also vice-chair of Education Committee)
Jane Nelson, Republican of Flower Mound
Dan Patrick, Republican of Houston (also chair of Education Committee)
Kel Seliger, Republican of Amarillo (also on Education Committee)
Royce West, Democrat of Dallas (also on Education Committee)
John Whitmire, Democrat of Houston
Judith Zaffirini, Democrat of Laredo