Shortsighted Cuts in Proposed State Education Budget Draw Fire From Texas AFT

Texas AFT Responds to Shortsighted Budget Cuts: Texas AFT President Linda Bridges put out a statement to the media today in response to the Texas Education Agency’s just-released 2012-2013 budget request, which reflects instructions from Gov. Rick Perry and top legislative officials to cut 10 percent of all TEA spending (other than per-pupil formula aid to school districts). Here is her statement in full:

“It’s shortsighted and destructive to target for 100% cuts the funding earmarked for science labs, after-school programs for high-need students, and teacher mentoring, and to make substantial cuts in funding for up-to-date textbooks and up-to-date teacher training. Rest assured these cuts will undermine the quality of public education.

“If cuts there must be, state officials should look first at the hundreds of millions of dollars that TEA’s budget plan would continue to spend on so-called ‘performance pay’ tied largely to students’ scores on standardized tests–a program that has reinforced perverse incentives to ‘teach to the test.’

“The state cannot cut and slash its way to educational success. Texas can do better than this, by taking three steps, two short-term and one long-term.

“In the short term, the governor needs to suspend the anti-Washington posturing and accept the $830 million for Texas school districts that is there for the asking from the U.S. Department of Education under the emergency school-aid bill Congress passed last month.

“Also in the near term, the legislature needs to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund of more than $8 billion for its intended purpose, to avoid destructive budget cuts in response to the temporary drop in state revenue due to the recession.

“For the long term, though, the education agency’s budget-cutting plan shows we urgently need to fix our state’s ill-designed and obsolete revenue structure, which even in better times can’t keep pace with the rising need to invest in our economic future–the six million students in Texas public education from pre-K through college.

“Unless these positive steps are taken, the state will be pulling the rug out from under our public schools and withholding the tools teachers need to get the job done even as more accountability is demanded. If the governor and other state officials stay on their current course of destructive budget cuts, the state is setting teachers and public schools up for failure.”