As you know, due to the projected reduction in tax revenues from the recent economic crisis, Texas must reduce the size of its $87 billion biennial budget by approximately $15 billion.
Currently, 40% of Texas’ budget is dedicated to funding public and higher education, making it THE highest priority of the state and the largest budget item (the average of all other states’ spending on education is 30.9% of their entire budget) [Examining Decades of Growth in K-12 Education, Texas Public Policy Foundation, pg. 12]. It is impossible to balance the budget, given the size of the shortfall, without reducing education funding.
I firmly believe that government must take the same approach as families and businesses across Texas and reduce spending. As parents of school children, these cuts will affect you and your children more than anyone. I’m seeking your advice for where you believe these reductions should be made.
Please help me understand how to cut the cost of doing business for schools without reducing the quality of the educational product. While thinking about this issue, please bear in mind a few facts:
- If the Texas public education system were a private company, it would be the fifth largest employer in the world. Blueprint for a Balanced Budget, Texas Conservative Coalition, pg. 15
- The current ratio of teaching to non-teaching positions in the Texas public education system is almost 1:1. See Blueprint for a Balanced Budget, pg. 34 (many districts in our area have a much better ratio. Paradise ISD, for example, has a 13:1 ratio)
- Even after adjusting for inflation, Texas increased its funding of education by 142% between 1987 and 2007
Other facts to consider:
- Many schools in our area are experiencing an extremely fast rate of growth in student enrollment
- Schools have to meet expensive state and federal mandates such as “No Child Left Behind”
- Schools have exceptional costs associated with educating children whose primary language is not English
- The current funding system for schools (much of which is established by court rulings), “Robin Hood”, takes away resources from some local schools and redistributes them to other areas of the state.
No state governmental agency or function will go uncut in this painful budget process.
The Texas House of Representatives voted two weeks ago to reduce our own office budgets by 10% immediately and by 14% effective in June – directly impacting my staff and their salaries. My daughter and son-in-law are both public school teachers and will also be directly impacted by any cuts to education. I realize the seriousness of these decisions and do not make them lightly. That’s why I’m asking for your help.
It is important that we use this difficult situation as an opportunity to prioritize education dollars down to the absolutely essential functions of our public education system. It is my hope that reductions made to education will focus on administrative functions instead of money for classrooms and school libraries that are precious resources for our children’s education.
As we make tough decisions, I welcome your ideas, observations, and specific cost-cutting suggestions to make sure our education dollars are used efficiently. Thank you for your assistance and serious consideration of this important matter.
I look forward to hearing from you and working closely together to find a solution that will cause the least impact on the state’s most valuable resource – our children. I can be reached at [email protected].
Phil King represents House District 61 in the Texas Legislature.