Leaders from school districts across Texas had tough words for lawmakers as they gathered today to denounce the "devastating" cuts to state public education funding.
Speaking at a press conference during the Texas Association of School Administrators' Midwinter Conference, superintendents and trustees urged the Legislature to use the Rainy Day Fund and search for new revenue through fees instead of the proposed $10 billion in cuts. They also asked the Legislature to fix the current school finance system, which Northside Superintendent John Folks called one of the "most inequitable and inadequate" funding mechanisms in the country.
In remarks that could portend a new school finance lawsuit, school leaders reminded legislators that the Texas constitution mandates that the state provide a "free and adequate" education to all children, saying that "there's no clause that says 'if funds are available.'"
Folks, who serves as superintendent of the San Antonio district and is a past president of TASA, said it was "totally irresponsible" for lawmakers to ask districts to make cuts when the Legislature had created a structural deficit in 2006 when it compressed property tax rates, limiting the amount of money districts could raise locally. As his district faces what could be a 28.5 percent reduction in funding, he said there's "no question" there will be layoffs — more than 1,000 positions.
So far, 525 of the 1,030 traditional school districts across Texas have signed a resolution announced at the conference asking lawmakers to make education the highest priority as they craft the final budget.