Today, the State Senate is set to take up a budget today that spends less on public education for Fiscal Year 2014 than it did in 2012 despite student enrollment growth.
It's a step backwards for Texas and no Democrat should vote for it to come to the floor, let alone pass.
The chart below shows the raw number of students attending Texas public schools, and the state and total funding spent on these students over the last 11 years, with the next two years projected. Those two years are important because that's what the Senate budget is voting on today, and the figures in the chart reflect CSSB1, or the budget that was passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and is headed to the floor for a vote.
To put it bluntly: in the Senate budget, over the next two years the money stays flat while the students increase, so with this budget, per-student spending will continue to decline.
While our state touts $8.8 billion in “surplus” funds and $12 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, the state has flat-lined per-student spending. Republicans cut funds when we “don't” have money and maintain the culture of cuts when we do.
Every Democrat in the State Senate should vote against a budget that robs our Texas schools of the funding needed to provide every child with a competitive, 21st century education.
There's been a lot of rosy talk about the budget, as it adds $1.4 billion to schools while leaving another $1 billion on the table unspent.
That is simply not enough. That still means cuts of $3.9 billion to education would continue for 2014-2015 under this version of the state budget.
It also includes a Senate provision that would require Gov. Rick Perry to obtain other lawmakers' approval before trying to enlarge Medicaid — thus potentially making it harder for the state to take advantage of the expansion provisions in the Affordable Care Act to provide health insurance for some of the 28.8% of Texans who currently lack it.
I don't care if the budget is going to pass on the backs of Republican votes — let them own the history of cutting public education in Texas and erecting further roadblocks to expanding Medicaid.
Democrats can use the 2/3rds rule to prevent the budget from even coming to the floor for a vote — and if they truly want to hold the line against continuing draconian cuts to public education, that's what they'll do, because in a 19-12 Republican majority Senate, letting it come to the floor is tantamount to letting it pass.
Our Texas children deserve better, and until Democrats are in power to give our public schools the funding they need, no Democrat should support passing a budget that provides less money per child over the next two years than we did in the last.