The ‘Save Texas Schools’ rally held on the south steps of the Texas Capitol today was not as innocuous as it sounds. We can all agree that work needs to be done to improve schools in Texas – but the individuals supporting today’s event have made clear that they see only one solution. Spend, spend, spend, and when that’s done, raise taxes and spend some more. That is the usual mantra coming from the likes of Congressman Lloyd Doggett and State Reps. Mike Villareal, Trey Martinez-Fischer, Joe Farias, and Senator Leticia Van de Putte, all leftists, and all vocal supporters of this movement.
“Bipartisan” is the label rally organizers chose to use, but there is no good evidence that it truly was. Not when AFL-CIO affiliates like the American Federation of Teachers are behind it. There is no “conversation” going on about how to best improve education in Texas – a rally like this has one goal, to “raise awareness” and take aim at legislators who seek a broader, deeper answer than simply spending more.
There is no question that “spending” is the driving force behind this rally. Check out the group’s website, with a blog that contains such articles as “The Rainy Day Fund.” Ignoring the fact that, going into the next biennium, Texas will face huge increases in health care liabilities thanks to Obamacare, or that situations out of the control of legislators (hurricanes, fires, other natural disasters) may happen and cost the state funds that are outside of regular budgetary concerns, groups like this one wanted education funding to come from the RDF, if it couldn’t be found elsewhere. There wasn’t an interest group during session that didn’t want RDF money to pay for their state-determined budget, and every agency in the state faced cuts. We should be exploring options for saving the state money (one idea, taxpayer savings grants, is gaining momentum but faces fierce opposition from the supporters of Save Texas Schools).
The economy is in bad shape, and taxpayers are drained. Going forward, we need to look at options for schools that make them more efficient and prepared for lean times, not increase funding without looking at everything that can be done first. And Texas schools are not hurting for cash – school spending has increased at five times the rate of enrollment and K-12 education already accounts for 43.7% of general revenue output. Some school officials would like you to think that “quality” education can only happen if spending is increased, but they can’t account for the schools that, despite receiving all sorts of financial boosts, continue to fail.
The goal should be to improve education, to offer educational choices to families that go beyond in-district transfers. Charter schools, homeschooling, and yes, even private schools need to be on the table, and to keep them off the table as the Save Texas Schools supporters do is to deny parents the right to seek and provide the best education for their children.
The public school system cannot be ignored, but it cannot and should not be the only choice due to factors like economic circumstance, learning ability, or location. Many of the legislators supporting the Save Texas Schools rally would, if given the choice, limit choices and increase spending on public education ten-fold, ignoring the unique factors that parents face and increasing taxes and regulations to prevent them from so much as considering options for their kids. If what happened on the south steps today is a harbinger of what we can expect during session, and if the tax-and-spend election strategy is allowed to succeed, the movement to reform our funding system and provide options to parents may be in jeopardy.