by Andy Welch
Dear Texas Parent:
We would like to tell you that we are excited about the start of the upcoming school year. But that would not be entirely true.
This past summer, the Texas Legislature cut $4 billion in overall funding for public education, and the impact will be felt in classrooms across the state. Regardless, we pledge to provide your child with the best education possible, in a clean, safe school.
This will be a challenge in a state that previously ranked 44th in funding for public education, and is now likely to fall even lower among the 50 states.
You should know how budget cuts are likely to affect your child’s education:
- Statewide there will be fewer teachers. Some teachers were laid-off; others retired, and we eliminated their positions; other teaching vacancies were simply left empty, to save money. This will mean larger class sizes and fewer academic options, especially at the high school grades.
- The focus on the new high-stakes STAAR accountability test will likely mean that we’ll try to find savings in subjects that will not be tested, so expect to have fewer art and music teachers, especially at the elementary grades.
- While state leaders like to tout Texas’ potential in a global economy, our ability to provide students who can speak German, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other foreign languages, will be diminished. We simply can’t afford to hire the teachers.
- To continue with an effectively full-day pre-kindergarten program, some districts will now be charging tuition, based upon a family’s ability to pay.
- Because of rising transportation costs, many field trips for culturally-enriched art and music programs will be cancelled.
- School maintenance is not protected from budget cuts. So, if your scout troop or service club is looking for a project, please contact your child’s principal. They, undoubtedly, will have a ‘to do’ list of projects that we don’t have the money to tackle.
- Higher food prices and utility costs are causing many of us to increase cafeteria meals by 5-10 cents. Still, it’s nutritious food, and is the only balanced meal that many students receive daily.
- For those of us without artificial turf in stadiums, we’ve done our best to keep athletic fields watered this summer, despite the drought. That’s not because we want them to be lush, but because if they are nothing but rock-hard patches of dirt, our young athletes are at greater risk of injury.
- Speaking of athletics, some of us are moving into the era of “pay to play,” in which athletes and band members may be required to pay a fee to participate. We recognize that these fees will present a hardship for many of our students, especially those from low-income families.
We would like to think these financial challenges are temporary. We would like to think that, when it convenes in 2013, the Texas Legislature will restore the funding it cut. However, we are placing greater faith in the courts. For four decades, our lawmakers have balked at adequately funding public education, until forced to do so by threat of lawsuit.
Only a handful of us, so far, have chosen to go to voters — who are cash-strapped as well — asking for more revenue through a Tax Ratification Election. The rest of us will cut corners, and dip further into reserve funds, hoping it doesn’t adversely affect our bond ratings.
We know that these are difficult economic times for most Texas families. These are also tough times for Texas schools. Nonetheless, you have our pledge that we will do our best to provide the academic support that your child needs to succeed. In return, we hope that you will continue to support us.
Your Local Texas School District
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