Texas Organizations Hope More State Funds Will Be Committed to Education | State News
AUSTIN — Education nonprofits in Texas are pushing to make school funding a major legislative priority in January.
The Texas comptroller predicts the state will have an additional $27 billion in its coffers for lawmakers to distribute in the next legislative session, as well as a $13.6 billion balance in its “Rainy Day Fund.” which leads many interest groups to push for a piece of the pie.
For Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing public education, and Texas 2036, a nonprofit policy advocacy organization, there’s no better investment than in schools.
“We can and must do better for our students,” said Margaret Spellings, president and CEO of Texas 2036.
According to the two organizations, additional funds are needed to support education on several fronts.
In 2019, Texas lawmakers passed an education reform bill that, among other things, sought to reduce property taxes — the main sources of funding for Texas schools — by increasing the state’s share. in school funding. The state has also established parameters to increase the compensation of teachers and school staff. But proponents worry that current school funding formulas are not flexible enough to meet ongoing teaching demands or inflationary cost pressures.
Specifically, Raise Your Hand calls on Texas lawmakers to create an inflationary adjustment to the basic per-student allocation, as rising costs put pressure on school districts to keep salaries competitive while funding expenses. additional energy, health insurance, gas and more.
Currently, Texas ranks 42nd in the nation for school spending, providing about $4,000 per student below the national average.
“Investing in public school students should be a priority every semester, because the future of Texas depends on well-funded public schools,” said a report from Raise Your Hand.
A recent Texas 2036 poll found that most Texas voters think investments in education and workforce development should be a top priority for the 2023 legislative session.
The overwhelming majority of voters said they were in favor of raising teachers’ salaries, as poor salaries are often cited as one of the main reasons educators leave the profession. About 79% of those polled in Texas 2036 said they support general salary increases for all teachers, and 65% said they support prioritizing the salaries of those who serve the neediest students.
In its list of priorities for the 2023 legislative session, Texas 2036 also said the state must reform the teacher retirement system, where retired educators have not seen a cost-of-living adjustment since. 2004.
In doing so, Texas 2036 said lawmakers could help stem rising costs, improve the value teachers receive from their health benefits, and help them stretch their paychecks further, while helping districts recruit and to remember.
A 2022 survey of Texas teachers by the Charles Butt Foundation, 77% of teachers surveyed seriously considered leaving the profession, up from 58% in 2020. Of those who seriously considered leaving, a majority – 93% – actively taken steps to leave the profession in the past year, he said.
“Our research reveals that teachers have a passion and a heart for their work in the classroom and for their students,” said Shari Albright, president of the foundation. “However, this dedication is challenged by inadequate pay, an unsustainable workload, feelings of being devalued and uninvolved in decision-making, and a lack of the resources and support teachers need to succeed. in their work.”
The Texas 2036 report also argued that while the state has recently committed additional funds to schools and worked to reform some practices such as its annual STAAR tests, more needs to be done.
The National Education Progress Assessment, better known as the National Report Card, released last week found that 38% of 4th graders in Texas are fluent in math and 30% are fluent in reading. For 8th graders in Texas, 24% are fluent in math and 23% are fluent in reading.
Texas, like all states, is still recovering from learning losses suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, but Spellings said the issues highlighted in the NAEP report are not new.
After rising steadily since the late 1990s, Texas peaked a decade ago, Spellings said. Since 2011, the number of 8th graders proficient in mathematics has fallen from 40% to 24%. The six percentage point decline during the pandemic years is only a fraction of the overall decline over the past decade, she said.
“The Legislature needs to stay the course on these reforms, investing in their data-tested strategies,” Spellings said. “These past semester reforms provide our best roadmap to continue improving student outcomes across our state and we can’t back down now.”