Like a steady stool needs three strong legs, our schools need Texas leadership to follow through on three simple commitments.
They say a productive life is all about balance. And all of us, including our public schools, are in desperate need of some balance at the moment.
Our public schools are facing a dual crisis of a costly and disruptive pandemic, compounded by the winter storm catastrophe that impacted every corner of our state. After enduring years of underfunding and 11 months spent soldiering through a disruptive pandemic, schools now face the costly aftermath of a crippling winter storm and statewide energy crisis. Ask any Texas educator you know. They are in desperate need of support and stability at this point.
This is why Raise Your Hand Texas has been talking about school funding even before the legislature convened. Since HB 3 passed in 2019, we have stressed the importance of maintaining the commitment to school funding. We’ve done the back-of-the-envelope math and determined that there is plenty of money available to provide schools with what they need.
Imagine our schools, which not only serve our students but, indeed, our future, sitting atop a precarious three-legged stool. At this critical juncture, we must ask what is needed to keep this invaluable resource from toppling over. Each leg of the stool is vital to our public schools’ stability, viability, and future.
1. Preserve HB3
First, we must preserve the investments we have already made in our public schools through House Bill 3. Passed into law in 2019, HB 3 ensures additional support for the students who need it most and full-day pre-Kindergarten for our neediest 4-year-olds. Ensuring continued funding and support for the reforms in House Bill 3 provides much-needed stability.
2. Hold Schools Harmless
Second, the state must continue funding schools based on historical enrollment data, as it did during the first half of this school year. Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, and Commissioner of Education Mike Morath’s decision to extend hold harmless funding will allow districts to continue to employ their teachers and meet other budget obligations.
3. Keep Stimulus Dollars Intended for Public Education in Public Education
Finally, state legislators need to do their part to ensure federal dollars intended for our public schools actually get to our schools and our students. While Texas used the first round of federal COVID relief money to fill other budget holes, states across the country are spending hundreds of dollars per student to ensure they don’t suffer learning loss. Texas simply cannot afford to fall so far behind and let this health crisis turn into a generational education crisis. By using the federal relief dollars as Congress intended, Texas leaders can ensure the future is strong and a full recovery is possible.
We hope our state leaders understand that a come-back from the pandemic and, now, the winter storm is only possible with a strong recovery of our schools. We need all three legs of the stool to be strong.
We’ve said it before, that every session is an education session, but this session, it couldn’t ring more true. The future of Texas is sitting upon a three-legged stool. We owe our students, our teachers, and our schools the balance, certainty, and funding they’re due.
The state should not use federal stimulus dollars that were meant for education to fill other holes in the state budget. Use one of our social media cards or create your own and share with #FundTxEdRecovery.