I picked up my fifth-grade daughter from school, excited to hear about her first day. As we chatted, she reluctantly offered, “Mami, this year I’ll sit on the floor for one week, and then the next week I’ll sit at a desk.There are too many kids in our classroom and not enough space for the desks, so we’ll take turns sitting on the floor.” As I processed this information, I thought: What is going on? Kids cannot be asked to sit on the floor at a public school, right? My husband and I pay our fair share in property school taxes ––a sizable percentage of our incomes ––and our kids don’t have classrooms that support each child having a desk and chair? Why are teachers and staff forced to work in these poor conditions?
Texas Isn’t Fully Funding Our Children’s Education Because of Wealthy Corporate Greed
Nationally, Texas ranks 42nd place in funding per student. The Texas Legislature has never evaluated the actual cost per pupil to educate our children. Let that sink in — our elected officials simply do not know how much it actually costs to educate our kids. Meanwhile, the most powerful state leaders continue to offer wasteful billion-dollar property tax cuts to wealthy corporations. Why would our elected officials be so careless? They often take political campaign contributions from these same wealthy corporations. As a result, we Texan homeowners and renters of all backgrounds — most of us who are struggling to meet our property tax bills or are dealing with increased rent — pay these corporations’ share of property taxes. Clearly, our most powerful elected officials care more about wealthy corporations than they do about us, the everyday Texans working hard to raise our families.
Working Conditions for Teachers Are Our Children’s Learning Conditions
Our children deserve better from Texas. Today, schools still use dilapidated 1970s portable buildings that were temporarily installed to deal with the overcrowding of 50 years ago. Our children are stuffed in classrooms with underpaid, undervalued teachers striving to do their best with insufficient funding and support from our state government. A joint report from Every Texan and Texas AFT found that teachers are earning less than they were ten years ago — and 66% of Texas teachers have considered leaving their jobs. We are living the consequences of the negligence of key elected officials: a statewide teacher shortage. Teachers and staff see no other option than to leave public education altogether because the working conditions are so poor and below the national average. This means our children aren’t receiving the education they deserve. And in some schools, there isn’t space for desks and chairs due to high teacher-to-student ratios.
Every Texan is a public policy and advocacy organization fighting for a fair and just state for Texans of all backgrounds. Our collective fight alongside partners across Texas also means winning a fully funded public education system. In a recent report, we found that there’s no methodology behind the state’s amount of funding per student and that the amount of dollars allocated per student isn’t adjusted for today’s inflation of 8.5%. We Texans must demand that the state legislature increase the total dollar amount per student each district receives overall from the state. What Texas’ most powerful elected officials care most about is making sure their wealthy friends and campaign donors don’t have to pay in property taxes what they owe our students and schools. These same elected officials are intentionally failing our students, education staff, and families because they prioritize wealthy corporations over the people of Texas.
Gov. Abbott Isn’t Prioritizing People in the State’s Budget — He’s Prioritizing Tax Cuts for Corporations and the Wealthy Few
Texas isn’t short on money or resources. In fact, Texas has a historic $44 billion in its fiscal budget for 2022-2023 that should be spent on our public schools, valued workers, and other essential public goods like affordable health care. Gov. Abbott isn’t prioritizing our public schools, valued workforce, or future — Texas is running an irresponsible balance during an unprecedented 8.5% inflation rate while working families are struggling to make ends meet. According to Every Texan’s Eva DeLuna Castro:
“A longer-term look at Texas’ non-federal revenue sources makes it clear that the state budget often fails to keep up with population and inflation… Unless new revenue sources are explored, continuing to prioritize border spending and new tax cuts for wealthy homeowners and corporations will endanger all of our access to public schools, college, health care, and other state services in the long run.”
Do not be fooled by Gov. Abbott’s motivation to cut taxes for the wealthy few. Our state hasn’t kept up with inflation, and it needs to pay for important services that we all need and deserve. The Texas Legislature should start with our public school students and teachers.
Texans of All Backgrounds Want Strong Public Schools
Regardless of our skin color, where we live, or how much money we earn, Texans broadly support and value our public schools. In 2021, the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation found that 56% of parents give their school an A or B rating, up by 8% from 2020. The root of the problem is that our state’s highest-ranking elected officials do not value our children and staff. Everyday Texans, whether in Austin, Brownsville, or Lubbock, can and must take immediate action to demand our elected officials fully fund every student in every district across our great state. Every public school student in Texas deserves a chair and a fully funded education.
We can fix public education!
Only together can we support our children and demand that wealthy corporations pay what they owe our kids, teachers, and valuable public schools. Here are some ways you and I can improve our state’s public education crisis:
- Talk to your child about their classroom conditions. You may be surprised by what you learn.
- Support your teachers union. Teachers unions are on the front lines of the fight for fully funded schools and improved working and learning conditions. Sign up for advocacy alerts here and be in solidarity with our education staff.
- Call your school board members. Communicate that you will not accept these conditions any longer and that the school board and the district must demand more public school funding per student from the state legislature during the 2023 legislative session.
- Talk to your campus parent-teacher association (PTA). Your PTA may already be engaged in advocacy at the Texas Legislature. Calling your state representative or showing up at the Texas Capitol signals to elected officials that we Texans aren’t going to allow insufficient public school funding and poor working and learning conditions any longer.
- Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t fix the public school crisis. This is about our children’s learning conditions and our teachers’ working conditions. School funding is a complex issue, and our elected officials have billions of dollars invested in short-changing everyday, working Texan families.