Education Funding

School Funding Poses Hurdle for Texas Lawmakers

By Sean Cavanagh — June 03, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Texas lawmakers have tentatively approved a budget that will bring major cuts to education, though its final passage is being delayed as they take part in a special session to consider potentially far-reaching changes in the state’s funding formula for schools.

Under the spending plan approved by both legislative chambers, which are controlled by Republicans, schools stand to receive about $4 billion less in formula funding over the next two years than is required by law to account for enrollment growth and other factors—about a 6 percent decrease.

Those bleak numbers are, by one measure, not as bad as they might have been, given that lawmakers were considering $10 billion in cuts earlier this year. The spending plan slashes an additional $1.5 billion from other education programs, including performance bonuses for teachers and administrators who raise student achievement and efforts to help academically struggling students.

All those provisions are part of a $172 billion biennial budget, which trims a total of $15 billion from the previous two-year cycle. The spending blueprint would still need to be approved by Gov. Rick Perry.

Yet the legislature’s work is not complete. The Republican governor called a special session, which began May 31, after Democratic lawmakers blocked passage of a second measure that would have allowed legislators to provide less than is required by the school funding formula.

Democrats had fought to increase spending levels, arguing that the state should dip into a $6.5 billion reserve fund before making cuts to schools and other programs. The GOP measure to change the funding formula was filibustered by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis. Republicans failed to round up enough votes to get around the impasse, resulting in the special session, in which lawmakers are expected to debate potentially major changes to state law that would free them from having to fund schools at prescribed, formula amounts.

Despite the stalled legislation, Gov. Perry—a Republican who is considering a 2012 run for president—praised legislators’ work on the budget, saying it meets residents’ demand to hold down spending.

“The voters of Texas made it clear last November that they wanted a leaner, more efficient state government with no new taxes,” Mr. Perry said in a May 31 statement.

Drawn-Out Battle

Originally, when lawmakers were planning to chop $10 billion from the schools’ budget, some advocates feared that between 60,000 and 100,000 school employees would lose their jobs. The latest numbers, while unappealing, should lead to fewer layoffs, said Dominic Giarratani, an assistant director for governmental relations at the Texas Association of School Boards. Districts have been giving teachers notices of layoffs based on rough estimates of how much state aid was coming, he said.

“A lot of them had planned for the worst-case scenario, and they will get to invite some employees back,” Mr. Giarratani said. “The ones who tried to wish for the best-case scenario may have to let some people go.”

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, a spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Administrators, predicted that Texas will continue to struggle until it addresses structural problems in how the state pays for schools, particular given rising state student enrollments.

Schools “are going to have to fight really hard to maintain quality programs,” she said.

Another Republican-sponsored bill introduced during the special session seeks to ease the pressures on districts by allowing them to furlough teachers, with a pay cut in accordance with the number of days reduced. “By providing several options—including furloughs and salary decreases—we will be able to save teacher jobs,” said Republican state Sen. Florence Shapiro, a sponsor of the measure, in a statement.

But Rita C. Haecker, the president of the 70,000-member Texas State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, says the proposal will undermine the caliber of the profession.

“By lowering salaries even more, it’s going to encourage more people to leave the classroom even sooner,” Ms. Haecker said. “I don’t think the legislature is looking at the big picture.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2011 edition of Education Week

Events

Student Achievement Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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

Education Funding School Districts Are Starting to Spend COVID Relief Funds. The Hard Part Is Deciding How
A new database shows districts' spending priorities for more than $122 billion in federal aid are all over the place.
8 min read
Educators delivering money.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding The Political Spotlight on Schools' COVID Relief Money Isn't Going Away
Politicians and researchers are among those scrutinizing the use and oversight of billions in pandemic education aid.
7 min read
Business man with brief case looking under a giant size bill (money).
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding Here's How Schools Can Use Federal COVID Aid to Solve Bus Driver and Other Transportation Woes
The Education Department outlines districts' options for using relief money to solve nationwide problems in getting kids to and from school.
2 min read
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools and day care centers on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in Ambridge, Pa.
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School in Ambridge, Pa., earlier this year on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools.
Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Education Funding High Schoolers to Decide How to Spend $1.5 Million in COVID Funding
State officials called Connecticut's new Voice4Change campaign “a first-in-the-nation statewide student civic engagement initiative.”
1 min read
Image is an illustration of a school receiving financial aid.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: E+, Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty)