Next week, our schools will open to serve 80,000 more students than last year, bringing the total number of children in Texas’ public schools to nearly 5 million.
Public school enrollment has increased by about 20 percent over the last decade, and most of that growth has been in the number of economically disadvantaged children. Unfortunately, our state investments haven’t kept up with that growth or the increasing costs that come with providing them with a quality education.
Budget cuts enacted in 2011 left school districts in dire straights. They were forced to layoff almost 21,000 teachers and staff and fill classrooms to the brim, resulting in low morale and limited supplies and resources, jeopardizing Texas kids’ chance for a healthy, quality learning environment. Six different lawsuits were filed in response to the cuts, and local communities are still feeling the effects.
Making sure all Texas children receive a high-quality education is key to the prosperity of the state as well kids’ overall well-being, but the 2014-15 budget doesn’t quite get us there. While there are some increases in education funding for the next biennium, the Legislature missed an opportunity to undo the harm caused in 2011. Hit hardest by this disinvestment are those poised to gain the most from a quality education–economically disadvantaged and at-risk children. Texas can no longer ignore the fact that the student population is changing and becoming more expensive to educate.
Read Chandra’s in-depth analysis on what happened to public school funding this session.