Steps You Can Take To Defend Our Texas Public Schools—It Is Up To You To Act
Blogger’s Note—The following post was compiled and written by top Houston political blogger Charles Kuffner at his blog Off The Kuff. I asked Charles if I could use this material here and he was kind enough to say yes. The post deals with what people can do to fight drastic cuts in Texas education being planned by the Texas legislature and Governor Rick Perry. While the post deals at first with the Houston-area Spring Branch Independent School District, it could just as easily be about any school district in Texas. As you read down the post, you’ll see it offers ways for average folks from all over Texas to fight back and win. I cannot imagine there is any part of Texas not concerned about these cuts in education. It cannot be said enough—The hard work of freedom and of bringing about a hopeful future is up to all of us. We all have the option to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, to write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes we value, and even run for office ourselves. I urge you to consider all these possibilities as from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C, to Austin, our American values of fair play for all are under attack. Thanks again to Off The Kuff for this post.
1. First and foremost, make sure you understand the scope of the issue and how it will affect you. Here’s an email that was sent out by the Spring Branch ISD to its parents:
Why should you care about the State Legislature and how its leadership impacts SBISD students?
- In 2005, state property taxpayers were told by the Texas Legislature that their property taxes would be lowered and that the funding loss to our schools would be made up through other taxes or revenue sources, including a new business or “margins” tax. That promise to make up for the funding loss has not been kept. The Texas Legislature must honor its commitment and restore this funding.
- Reductions proposed in Austin would equate to 15% of SBISD’s current funding. This represents a reduction of about $800 per student from the current $5,700 per student allotment, or $20,000 per classroom. Pictured in another way, this is the equivalent of one full class period being eliminated from every student’s school day.
- In 2006, the state froze school district revenue at the 2006 level. Since that time, in order to fund basic inflationary cost increases, including cost-of-living increases for our teachers, SBISD has made difficult non-campus reductions and used its savings to limit the direct effect on our classrooms. In fact, the current 2010-11 SBISD budget reflects reductions of more than $8 million to make ends meet. Unless the Legislature restores school funding, SBISD will no longer be able to keep the impact of yearly budget reductions away from its classrooms.
Our Priorities:Spring Branch ISD students will graduate from high school on time and go on to successfully complete a 2-year technical degree, or a 2-year associate’s degree, or a 4-year bachelor’s degree.
To support this goal, the Legislature must:
- provide SBISD with a revenue stream that is predictable, takes into account inflationary costs, and is not less than the amount SBISD currently receives;
- exempt school districts from state mandates for which the Legislature has not appropriated funding sufficient to meet expenditures (for example, costs related to the 4X4 math/science requirement);
- restore the authority of elected school boards to raise funds locally without a tax-rate election, and eliminate the requirement that any of these additional funds be sent to the state (Robin Hood);
- return local control and responsibility over important issues, such as the school calendar, to elected school district trustees who are most accountable to the community on matters of public schools; and
- provide high-performing school districts like SBISD with autonomy and flexibility over their educational program.
As the Texas Legislature continues to meet during the months ahead, reduced budgets and associated reductions will be more clearly defined. SBISD, in the meantime, will continue to communicate with Legislators and our community about what these cuts will mean to our students, our employees and the local community.
If you’re not getting this kind of information about what’s going on with your school and your school district, talk to your child’s teacher, your PTA, your principal, or your school board trustee. You can’t know what to do if you don’t know what’s at stake.
2. Make your voice heard in Austin by lobbying your Representative, your Senator, and the members of the relevant legislative committees. HISD has a Legislative Training sessionscheduled for next Saturday to help you learn who these people are and what your best strategies are for communicating with them.
With the State of Texas facing a record-level budget shortfall, it is expected that the Texas Legislature will be severely cutting funding for public education.
To help parents, teachers, administrators, students, and other concerned members of the community understand how this could affect Houston-area students, HISD will be presenting a “primer” on how the Texas Legislature works on Saturday, February 26.
The district’s second “Legislative 101,” which starts at 9:00 a.m. at the DeBakey High School for Health Professions (3100 Shenandoah, 77021), will provide participants with an update on current legislative activity, the chance to hear from top lobbyists on the most effective ways to communicate with elected officials, and details on how Houston-area school districts can work together on legislative issues impacting their students.
For planning purposes, those who expect to attend this event are asked to RSVP as soon as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also watch a video of the first event held on January 27.
Some legislators – Republicans, for the most part – will need more convincing than others.
3. Head up to Austin for a rally and march.
We invite everyone from across Texas to join us at the Capitol building in Austin Texas on March 12th, 2011!
Save Texas Schools will hold a rally and march at the State Capitol on March 12, 2011, with parents, teachers, students, community members, business owners, and faith organizations. A list of speakers and entertainment is in the works for this historic, nonpartisan, family-friendly event. We invite everyone, from school districts all across the state of Texas, to join us in asking our lawmakers to Keep Texas Smart!
DATE: Saturday, March 12, 2011
March: 11:00 a.m. starting from 12th & Trinity (2 blocks from the Capitol)
Rally: Noon – 2:00 p.m. at the Texas State Capitol on the South Steps, Congress Ave. & 11th St.
Click the link above for a map, and click here to RSVP.
So there you have it. If we don’t fight for this, we will have no right to complain later on. And if you need a little inspiration to get into the fighting mood, read this letter from John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, in which he channels a little William Travis to the Lege.