What’s Ahead in the 2017 Legislative Session?
We now know that the budget cuts in 2011 were unnecessary. With an $7.5 billion budget surplus and a projected $11.1 billion in the “Rainy Day Fund,” there is no reason to delay in restoring funds to public education.
Texas has consistently trailed most states in per pupil education spending, ranking in the bottom five, even before the budget cuts of 2011. This represents a serious slip from just a decade ago, when Texas was ranked 25th and was only $281 below the national average in per pupil funding. By the 2013-14 school year, Texas per pupil funding had dropped to nearly $2,600 below the national average.
Last year, our state funding system was ruled both inadequate and inequitable by Judge John Dietz. While the ruling is being appealed by the state, some legislators want Texas kids to wait another two years before any funding relief. Others believe that at least some funding relief can occur now to restore what was cut in 2011.
In 2011, the legislature caused thousands of Texas teachers to lose their jobs, and classes to balloon in size. There is no shortage of funds to make a difference now!
Save Texas Schools asks our legislature to continue looking at high-stakes testing that is draining both time and resources from the education of Texas children.
It is time to reevaluate the role of standardized testing on our campuses and apply common sense limits. Test results should be used to target areas for improvement, not punish individual students and schools. Let’s make Texas lawmakers accountable for an “accountability” system that really works!
Under current law, public schools that are identified as struggling face only punitive and disruptive sanctions. When a school is closed, a gaping hole is left in the community. When a school is disrupted with reconstitution, it sets the school and the students back. These measures are detrimental to the students, families and surrounding communities and do not fulfill the purpose of improving them.
Our solution, Community Schools, is a nationally recognized model and locally proven success. This model requires a community-based, “all hands on deck” approach to address the multitude of needs a student might have. They create partnerships with existing local organizations to efficiently and effectively coordinate support. Typically, for every $1 invested in a community school effort, $3 is added through community partners. Schools serve as the hub for the community while focusing on academics, health and social services, and youth and community development, which produce improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. There are currently about 4,000 community schools nationwide, but Austin holds its own examples of success with Webb Middle School and Reagan High School.
The Community Schools model not only provides for a strong, effective and efficient alternative to the ineffective sanctions imposed on schools, but also promotes higher academic achievement, minimizes disruptions for students and families, and returns increased control to local communities.