School funding is increasing $1.6 billion
State Representative, District 20

Dr. Schwertner Dr. Schwertner During the recent legislative session, the state of Texas was presented with a truly daunting challenge, writing a state budget while facing a $27 billion revenue shortfall.

Unlike the federal governme nt, whose deficit spending and entitlement programs threaten to bankrupt our nation, Texas is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget every two years.

It may not always be popular, but in Texas, we do what it takes to live within our means, just as Texas families do.

Some have expressed concern regarding the impact that this leaner budget will now have on public education in Texas.

I understand and appreciate this concern. An effective and high-performing public education system is essential to the continued economic growth of Texas and to the prosperity of its citizens.

Furthermore, support of public education is a constitutional duty of our state as described in Article 7 of the Texas Constitution.

The fact is that the education of our state’s 4.8 million schoolchildren remains the single largest portion of the state budget, with nearly 60 cents out of every state dollar devoted to that purpose.

In a year of substantial budget cuts to virtually every area of government, some may be surprised to learn that our school districts will actually receive a $1.6 billion increase in state funding over the previous biennium.

However, more money cannot and should not be the only answer to solving our state’s educational challenges.

Over the course of the legislative session, I reached out to the 16 different superintendents in House District 20 to seek their input and counsel regarding how to best address the challenges facing public education.

While many expressed funding concerns, most also requested greater independence and flexibility in how they’re allowed to manage their school districts at the local level.

That’s why my colleagues and I have worked to not only adequately fund public education for the next two years, but also to accomplish critical mandate relief for our local school districts by eliminating many of the archaic and unnecessar y regulations which hold students back, limit teacher innovation, and drive up the cost of education.

Ult imately, any long- ter m improvement of public education will require a fundamental reevaluation of how we educate our children, something the Texas Legislature is fully committed to addressing between now and the next legislative session.

Creative, out-of-the-box thinking will be required on the part of both educators and policy makers as we reassess many of the wellworn paradigms of public education funding and accountability.

Some have asked the legislature to raise taxes or drain the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” as a solution to our current budget shortfall.

This is not a position I share, as the Rainy Day Fund is absolutely critical to our state’s ability to respond to any unforeseen financial emergencies or natural disasters over the next two years.

When taking office, I made a pledge to the voters that I would only support a budget which is balanced, fiscally responsible, and which does not raise taxes on the backs of hard-working Texans.

I believe this budget does exactly that, while prioritizing the majority of spending towards public education and essential state services.

The truth is that the Texas Legislature, just like the Texans they represent, places the utmost value on the future of our children.

In what has been a supremely challenging budgetary session, I remain confident that the people of Texas have been well served by the prudent, responsible, and sometimes difficult choices which have been made regarding the best use of our state’s limited resources.

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2011-06-23 digital edition

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