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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Texas cuts education by 4 Billion

From Education in Texas

by Dr. Jerry Burkett

With one week left to go in the Texas 82nd Legislative Session, all of the work has been done. And they didn’t have to go into Special Session to solve the financial problems of this biennium…yet.

The jury is still out on financing education. The state can’t finalize a state budget till the legislature decides on a funding bill for education. They have three choices:

1) Roll back funding to 2005-06 levels…and never change them to reflect 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, etc….levels (Sen. Shapiro Plan).
2) Take 6% off the top for each school district in the state. Larger school districts lose more than smaller school districts (Rep. Eissler Plan).
3) Take between 6%-10% of funds from each school district making it a little more “equitable” for districts, large and small (Rep. Hochberg Plan).

Well, the $4 billion cuts to education have to come from somewhere and these are the proposed plans left to decide from. Let the games begin! We can’t have a state budget without an education financing plan, we have to have a budget before the session ends, and Governor Perry has already decided that we will not have a Special Session.

Dear Texas State Senators (specifically Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound), State Representatives (specifically Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Southlake/Keller), and Governor Rick Perry,

I want to introduce you to my son. He is a bright and loving boy. He will be four years old in August and is so excited about school. We drive by his “big boy school” every day and he asks questions about learning to read, doing math, lunchtime, and all of the exciting things he will do in kindergarten. He already loves learning and the thought of going to school.

But I worry what kind of education he can look forward to. He doesn’t know that he could lose opportunities in music, art, PE, and other programs we take for granted. He doesn’t understand his district is losing 6% of their state funding with no plan to fix funding mechanisms in sight. He has no idea that resources like learning strategists, librarians, and gifted and talented teachers have already been cut from many local budgets.

He doesn’t know this is just the beginning.

I want you to look into my child’s big brown eyes and explain to him why you won’t provide the funding necessary to give Texans the equitable and adequate education required by state law.

Look at that little boy, whose entire future is laid out before him, and tell him that his education and future are less important than tax breaks for businesses and yacht owners.

Perhaps you can explain to him why you won’t require a real tax on business even though you are fully aware that the margins tax under-performs.

Tell him that the best technology training he will receive is playing with Daddy’s iPad since the technology budget has been zeroed out.

Explain to him why you sold out his future and destroyed job opportunities for his generation by not funding education today. Please let him know it will be difficult for him to find good job opportunities in this state with cutting-edge businesses because they will no longer employ Texans. Our hiring pool won’t be educated enough to do the jobs the future will need. Perhaps you should suggest he acquire a trade because high-tech jobs won’t be here by the time he enters the workforce.

Let my child know that the Texas college plan Mommy and Daddy set up for him won’t mean much by the time he’s ready for college because cuts to higher education will also be severe. Maybe you could recommend a good out-of-state college?

Suggest that he find other sources for extracurricular activities and athletics. Those will be things of the past by the time he’s ready to enjoy participating in school sports, the band, or the high school newspaper.

Look at his face and tell him why his education is less important than the bottom line of Texas’ businesses.

Explain to him why his future is not sustainable because of the structural tax deficit you refuse to fix, despite the fact you were warned an imbalance was created when you cut property taxes in 2006.

Explain to this child why his education wasn’t a legislative “emergency,” but was supplanted by the real emergencies facing Texas, voter IDs and sonogram bills.

Look at my beautiful boy and tell him there were no “sacred cows” when cutting this budget except for the governor’s rent, business technology slush fund, and investment in Formula One racing (a sport no one wants to see).

Tell him school districts will cut essential programs, staff , benefit plans, and most importantly, will raise local taxes to offset what the state didn’t provide. I can’t find the words to help a three-year-old understand.

Help him understand why our schools should suffer because lawmakers won’t clean up the mess they made in 2006 all in the name of politics and re-election. I ask him to clean up his messes, why won’t you?

Tell my boy that while it’s clear to even him that it’s raining in Texas, you will choose not to use the rainy day fund to prove a political point. Let him know your ideology and political ambition are more important than my child’s future.

Explain to my son why you don’t value him, his future classmates, and education.

I look forward to meeting with you so you can have this conversation with my child. And while you are explaining it to him, please explain it to me as well. Because even with a doctorate in education, I can’t say I understand it either.

It’s very challenging to explain this to such a small and impressionable child. I hope when you meet with him that you have more success in helping him understand than his mother and I did. We were able to convey to him that some people in the government didn’t value education and were trying to steal money from the schools. When we explained to him this weekend that those people were successful in taking the money away from schools, he was disappointed.

“Did we lose?” he asked.

Mommy/Daddy: “Yes, we did.”

His response: ”Don’t be sad. We’ll win next time.”

He’s right. It isn’t over. We’ll remember and we’ll ensure our neighbors remember also. There will be changes in 2012. See you at the polls.

Signed, Dr. Jerry R. Burkett

Father, Educator, Taxpayer, Texan, and Your constituent that votes AND pays attention

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