Texas AFT Testifies Against Education Cuts in State Budget Plan

Traditionally ahead of the biennial legislative session the staffs of the Legislative Budget Board and the governor’s budget office get together to review spending requests from state agencies. This year agencies have been directed by the governor and legislative leaders to chop 10 percent from their already lean baseline budget requests. Here’s what Texas AFT’s Ted Melina Raab had to say about that at today’s LBB hearing on the budget proposed by the Texas Education Agency:

“The Legislative Appropriations Request submitted by the Texas Education Agency is starkly short of funding needed to meet our state’s education needs and goals. Texas AFT does not accept the artificial limitations placed by Gov. Perry and legislative leaders on the initial budget requests of TEA and other agencies. We and other members of Texas Forward [a new coalition for a balanced approach to writing the budget] are committed to maintaining state funding for essential services in the near term–particularly through use of the state’s Rainy Day Fund of more than $8 billion for its intended purpose–and to long-term solutions for 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.

“Texas AFT specifically opposes shortsighted and destructive proposals such as 100-percent cuts to funding earmarked for science labs, after-school programs for high-need students, and teacher mentoring, and substantial cuts in funding for up-to-date textbooks and up-to-date teacher training. Such cuts will directly undermine the quality of public education-a result foreshadowed in the decline by one-quarter presumed by this LAR in the percentage of campuses meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress measures from 80 percent to 61 percent.

“If money must be cut from some programs to free up funds for necessary efforts, 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,’ while providing no evidence of any countervailing benefit for students.

“The state cannot cut and slash its way to educational success. Unless 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.”