Thousands of Texas educators are about to descend on the Texas Statehouse on Monday, March 11, in a Red for Ed Texas March to the Capitol. We follow the path worn by our colleagues across the nation from West Virginia to the West Coast, who have taken to the streets to protest the abuse of our public schools by negligent elected officials.
Joining us in Austin will be the presidents of the nation’s two major teacher and school employee unions: Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association (NEA). These national leaders rightly see our struggle with the Texas Legislature as part of the broader fight playing out all over America. They come to listen to our stories, to stand in solidarity with us, and to bring a message from our fellow educators, be they in Oakland or Oklahoma, that it is past time that our state properly fund our schools.
This is our message, as we prepare to stand toe to toe with our legislators in Austin: Fund Our Schools, Fund Our Future!
Texas ranks near the bottom of states in per-pupil funding for PreK-12 education—$2,300 below the national average. CBS News reported this week that Texas is one of a dozen states still spending less today on school children than it did a decade ago. In fact, Texas has the ignoble distinction of having slashed school funding more than any other state. Spending per student in our state is 20% below 2008 levels when the rising cost of inflation is included. This shame is compounded when we consider that 10% of America’s children attend school in Texas.
As educators, we feel the pain of underfunded schools when we see how students are affected. I visited schools this week where Pre-K programs had been reduced to half-day due to budget cuts. Overcrowded classrooms reduced opportunities for struggling students to receive extra attention, and inadequate staffing and dilapidated facilities are all in evidence in public schools across Texas.
I have heard from many teachers and support employees about having to drop their family members from district-sponsored health insurance plans, as costs rise beyond the reach of their meager salaries. We know that active and retired school employees alike have gone for too long without increases in take-home pay, even as health-care costs have risen. Higher education funding in Texas has likewise suffered drastic state reductions, as tuition and fees have nearly doubled in the last 15 years.
The problem of underfunding Texas public education has been more than 10 years in the making—over a decade of neglect. We know that this problem will not be solved all at once. We understand that it will take several election cycles to place elected officials in office who are committed to reinvesting in our schools. We know that it will take several sessions of the Texas Legislature to get the state’s fiscal commitment to a level that gives every Texas child a chance to be successful socially and academically.
We come to the Capitol next week because we are awake. And the last election cycle was a wake-up call to Texas elected officials. We are heartened by efforts in both chambers of the Legislature to address real and critical problems with our state’s funding of public schools, from salaries to early childhood education, to the broader need to reverse the trend of austerity that has stifled opportunity for students and demoralized those of us who serve and educate students.
We are calling on the Texas Legislature to take great strides in funding for our schools. Legislative proposals to date, while encouraging, fall short of the significant increases in funding needed just to bring Texas to the national average in per-pupil funding. Energy wasted on divisive side issues and like merit pay and school sanctions distract from the task at hand: to Fund our Future by Funding Our Schools.
I look forward to joining you next Monday at our State Capitol to deliver this message in unison to the Texas Legislature!
Texas AFT President
You can follow Louis on twitter @LouisMalfaro
Retired educators (and those that plan to retire!): Tell legislators that the state needs to step up and increase its contribution to TRS so that retirees can receive a cost-of-living increase for their pensions. Send your online letter now!
- Commit to joining us (or calling/writing in) at the Capitol on March 11.
- RSVP on Facebook for the rally.
- Send a form if you’re looking for transportation or a meet-up with others.
- Read our FAQ on the rally.
Highlights and analysis of Texas education in the news. Yesterday’s column looks at: “Something is not right” with STAAR, and the Texas House releases its school-finance plan with a jab thrown at state senators…..Read Here.