States

Protecting K-12 Funds A Must for Gov. Perry

By Michelle Galley — February 26, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
State of the States

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas sought to leave no doubt during his recent State of the State Address that education is a top priority for his administration, though, given the current fiscal climate, he seems to be facing an uphill battle.

According to recent budget estimates, the state is facing a $10 billion deficit in its projected $114 billion budget for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. Nonetheless, Mr. Perry is pledging to spare K-12 education from cuts.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry meets with members of his staff Feb. 9 to polish his State of the State Address, which he delivered Feb. 11. In the speech, Mr. Perry outlined a plan to protect K-12 aid by reducing state mandates.
—Photograph by Harry Cabluck/AP

Just last week, however, the state’s independent Legislative Budget Board suggested that each state agency come up with a plan to cut its budget 12.5 percent in the next two-year budget cycle. Under those conditions, K-12 education would have to lop $2.8 billion from its current spending level of $29.5 billion.

Mr. Perry, though, in his Feb. 11 speech to the legislature, laid out a blueprint that he says could soften the blow to schools.

For example, he proposed eliminating a host of state mandates, which, in turn, would reduce district spending by an estimated $500 million.

“School districts across this state are diverting precious dollars away from the classroom to pay consultants for audits, to pay for higher utility costs than necessary, and to meet the mandates placed upon them by the state,” the governor said.

Mr. Perry, who was elected to a full, four-year term in November after succeeding President Bush as governor in late 2000, added that districts are required to produce reports on their pest-management systems, recycling programs, and efforts to reduce paperwork.

The oversight of those programs should be left up to the districts themselves, he said. “Local educators and local citizens know what’s best when it comes to the education of their children,” he said.

Karen Soehnge, the associate executive director of government relations for the Texas Association of School Administrators, points out that the legislature has placed new demands on districts without adding funds to help them meet those requirements.

“Local schools had to pick up the costs,” she said. “We believe that there is no doubt that even if just a few of the mandates were repealed, schools could save money.”

But Wayne Pierce, the executive director of the Equity Center, a school funding advocacy group in Austin, doubts the governor’s savings projections.

He agrees that reducing state mandates would certainly free some money for schools. But he added, “This is just a way of the state saying that schools have half a billion dollars when they really don’t.”

Too Optimistic?

In addition, Mr. Perry wants to shift funding from the state’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund to the state education department, which would then use the additional funds to raise per-student technology allotments from $30 to $35 without having to tap in to already strained K-12 education funding.

Mr. Perry was optimistic that school aid could be protected, and even increased, without creating new taxes for Texans.

“Texas families don’t want, don’t need, and don’t deserve new taxes,” Mr. Perry said. “Slowdowns in the economy are usually temporary. Tax hikes usually are not.”

While it is conceivable that the state could take care of its budget deficit through cuts in spending, it is not necessarily advisable, said Mr. Pierce.

He also questioned the idea that schools would be spared under Gov. Perry’s proposals. “There have been lots of promises that there will be no cuts to education,” Mr. Pierce said.

The governor also reiterated in his speech that the state needs to solve problems with its school finance system, including its reliance on tax revenue from wealthy districts to help support less affluent ones. (“Texas Bills Would Scrap Finance System,” Feb. 12, 2003.)

Mr. Pierce argued, though, that “we shouldn’t be worrying about taking care of the wealthiest until we’ve taken care of those who are operating on a lot less already.”

Without providing details, the governor also introduced an initiative to reimburse teachers for classroom supplies, a science initiative that he said would increase pay to “expert” science teachers, and a high school completion initiative that would identify students at risk for dropping out of school.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Some States Want to Lock in Universal Free School Meals as Federal Waivers End
The pandemic-era waivers let students regardless of income get free school meals and drew wide use nationally.
4 min read
Norma Ordonez places a tray of grilled cheese sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students kept out of class because of the coronavirus at Richard Castro Elementary School early Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in west Denver.
Norma Ordonez places sandwiches into an oven to warm as she prepares take-away lunches for students at Richard Castro Elementary School in Denver in 2020.
David Zalubowski/AP
States Governors Divided on How to Keep Schools Safe From Gun Violence
The Associated Press asked governors across the U.S. how to reduce mass shootings and gun violence.
4 min read
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a rally to end gun violence, Friday, May 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
States Opinion Searching for Common Ground: The Parental-Rights Bill, aka the 'Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
Rick and USC dean Pedro Noguera discuss Florida's law curbing gender and sexuality talk and its impact on students, teachers, and parents.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
States Texas Governor Sparks Backlash With Talk of Rolling Back Free School for Immigrant Kids
Critics assailed Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's idea as “hare-brained” and “cruel.”
Robert T. Garrett, The Dallas Morning News
5 min read
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin, Texas, on June 8, 2021.
Eric Gay/AP