A new poll released today by the Texas State Teachers Association shows strong support across partisan lines to use Rainy Day Funds to restore the $5.4 billion that was cut from Public Education. The poll conducted at the end of February by Democratic pollster Keith Frederick and Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen, was done by telephone of 800 likely Texas voters.
The poll also shows majority support even among Republicans to, “hire more teachers, reduce class sizes and restore important academic programs”. On the question of using the RDF, public education outperforms both water and roads. Given the option, 66% of Texas voters would use the Rainy Day Fund to restore public school funding. The poll suggests there also a growing sentiment that the cuts in funding are hurting the overall quality of education students receive. Some 61% of likely voters now say the funding cuts hurt the quality of education. A similar poll in 2011 found only 47% predicted such disruption if cuts were made.
Last sessions cuts came out to over $1,000 per student dropping Texas' ranking to 49th in the US, or about about $3,000 less per student than the US average. Over 600 of the state's school districts have filed suit over funding and the issue is currently being heard by the State Supreme Court, but legislators do not need a directive from any magistrate to restore funding – only political will. Earlier this week Senator Wendy Davis (D-Dallas) filed 2 bills that seek to reverse damages done to Public Education. One, SB 1048 would eliminate an unnecessary cut over the next biennium and return $1.05 billion back to schools and taxpayers. The other, SB 1047 would increase the state's per student funding for the first time since 2009.
In response to the poll results, TSTA president Rita Haecker released the following statement:
“Texans are not fooled by the rhetoric coming from the education-cutters in Austin…The vast majority of voters – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike – know that the budget cuts have hurt our classrooms. The also know that the Legislature has enough money to restore the funding without raising anyone's taxes, and they demand that their legislators do the right thing for our children.”