Group Wants 2011 Funding Cuts Restored
A group called Save Texas Schools (STS) is holding a rally Saturday outside the state Capitol to focus on restoring education funding and reforming the state's testing system. STS Chair Allen Weeks tells KTRH their first priority is the $5.4 billion in school funding cuts passed by the 2011 Legislature, since the state now has an estimated $8.8 billion surplus. "We cut so many things we didn't need to cut," he says. "So it just makes sense, if you take something give it back, and especially if you take something from children...give it back." The state is appealing a recent ruling that its system for funding education violates the Texas Constitution, but in the meantime STS says lawmakers could restore at least $2 billion of the 2011 cuts that were not part of that lawsuit.
Restoring education funding is only part of the event's focus. Save Texas Schools also wants to see changes to the oft-criticized STAAR standardized tests. "We even have the former commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, Robert Scott, who's gonna say that this testing system is broken," says Weeks. "If the guy who helped create it says it's broken, I think it's broken, and we're there to say let's fix it." He acknowledges that changes are likely on that front, as both Republican and Democrat lawmakers have recently criticized the current testing system.
Weeks argues that the 2011 cuts have hurt pre-kindergarten, dropout prevention programs and college financial aid, while also leaving some districts with overflowing classrooms and inadequate resources to meet the needs of their students. "That's not America, that's not Texas," he says. The bottom line, he argues, is that between the surplus and the state's full rainy day fund, there is plenty of funding available for Texas schools. "We need to put money back into education, and this rally is really about giving legislators that kick in the pants to get that going."