To the Editor,
I’m sure you were as confused as I was after reading Senator Troy Fraser’s column in the July 6 issue of the Mason County News regarding the recently completed legislative session and public school financing. Sen. Fraser stated: "The Texas Legislature increased state funding for public schools by almost $4 billion. While we had to make some adjustments to our funding formulas, I believe our efforts should deter efforts to raise local school property taxes and keep good teachers in the classroom. We gave locally elected school boards more tools to better manage their own budgets and personnel issues."
Really? Did the legislature actually increase state funding for public schools by $4 billion? Or did they in fact decrease funding by $4 billion? The House version of the budget included $8 billion in cuts to public schools. The Senate’s version of the budget, and the eventual joint compromise budget, reduced the $8 billion in cuts to $4 billion. Is Senator Fraser suggesting that by reducing the cuts from $8 billion to $4 billion they actually increased the funding?
Linda Bridges, president of Texas AFT, the 65,000-strong Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, offered this observation in a press statement marking the end of the special legislative session:
"With a sharply reduced budget enacted in May, and a school-finance plan to enforce $4 billion in cuts in state aid passed yesterday, this retreat sets in motion what amounts to a planned failure to deliver the educational quality our students deserve. Also part of this plan for failure is the elimination of another $1.4 billion in state grant funding for full-day pre-kindergarten and extra help for at-risk students, among other vital programs. The legislature also chose to cut state pension and health-care contributions for retired teachers."