Today was a huge win for the Democratic members of our Texas Legislature: they held firm in budget negotiations and restored $3.9 billion in funding to public education.
In 2011, the Republican supermajority slashed $5.4 billion from our public schools, resulting in teachers losing their jobs and school children being unable to gain a competitive education. Restoring those funds has been a priority for Democrats this session. Today, Democrats held firm and struck a deal that restores $3.9 billion, which is the best that 55 Democrats in the House and 12 in the Senate can realistically do.
Pragmatically, this is the best we can do with Republicans in charge of our state who still seek to shortchange our children, and represents practically the highest dollar amount discussed to be restored to public education this session.
From the Texas Tribune:
Under Friday's deal, the $2 billion in water funding will come from the state's Rainy Day fund, a reserve made up mostly of oil and gas taxes. That funding will be found in House Bill 1025, a supplemental budget bill that addresses funding on various issues.
The roughly $4 billion for public education hews closely to what Democrats had pushed for all week after acknowledging they were not going to be able to completely restore last session's cuts. Budget conferees agreed to $3.2 billion for the Foundation School Program, the main account the state uses to fund public education. Another $200 million is expected to be added to the Foundation School Program in HB 1025.
As part of the $4 billion education package, negotiators also agreed on a $330 million infusion into the Teacher Retirement System's pension fund.
All in all, this is a major win for Democrats, who restored more funding to education in the budget conference committee process than was present in the House or Senate versions of the budget.
While many Democrats and progressives want to see all $5.4 billion restored, this is still a tremendous leap forward for Democrats, who maximized our leverage by standing together and standing firm against Governor Rick Perry's attempts to prevent funding from being restored to public education.
Special thanks goes to Senators Wendy Davis and Sylvia Garcia and Representatives Rafael Anchia, Lon Burnam, Nicole Collier, Joe Farias, Mary Gonzalez, Ana Hernandez Luna, Abel Herrero, Trey Martinez Fischer, Justin Rodriguez, Chris Turner, and Armando Walle, who voted against the budget in the Senate and House respectively, setting a high bar for what was necessary to gain final passage.
This early opposition to an inadequate budget helped give Democrats leverage to fund education, because their votes in the House were needed to fund the Water Plan. Democrats held firm, and now our Texas school children will have a better chance at success.
Good work today, Democrats. Y'all deserve to celebrate this tremendous effort to restore $3.9 billion to public education. Let's finish strong and keep doing the best we can — and that happens when we stick together.