Texas schools are being underfunded by the state. Even though the amount that the state contributes to education each year has increased, the proportion of the state’s share of the education cost has dropped due to population increases in the State of Texas. Republicans have also shifted funding away from public schools by focusing on “school choice” and the voucher program. This directly cuts funding to public schools and allows for private schools to receive tax dollars for providing a public service without having to meet the same requirements as public schools. The amount of funding anticipated in the 2018-2019 school year is dropping to 37.7% – local school districts must make up the difference by raising property taxes for local homeowners. We cannot continue to allow Republican lawmakers to raid the funds of public schools to provide funding to charter schools that do not perform as well as our public schools.
Texas has also failed its teachers, especially those who have already retired. Teachers received a bait and switch from their insurer at the beginning of 2018, which caused many of them to leave the system. Texas Teachers have the lowest-funded retirement system in the United States. With lower than expected returns on the funds within the Teacher Retirement System, we need to be sure to elect legislators who will not cut the pensions and health care benefits for teachers that have already retired. We cannot continue to expect our teachers to be the heavy lifters on funding the pension of our retired teachers – once again, Republicans have borrowed from our future to fund our current commitments.
The use of standardized tests as a benchmark for Texas school performance ratings has created an unwieldy system that leaves administrators in the dark about how to change their ratings. The ratings that resulted from the standardized tests created rankings more based on the financial resources of a community rather than the performance of the school. Even the new A-F ratings continue the same reward of wealthy school districts and punishment of poorer school districts. The use of high stakes testing also creates an environment where schools, in pursuit of higher test scores, see higher dropout rates due to high school exit exams. “Given that, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, African American and Latino students are twice as likely as White students to dropout of school, and students from low-income families are five times more likely to drop out than students from high-income families…these findings would seem to support a relationship between high-stakes testing, dropout rates, and a disproportionate impact on low income students and students of color.” This leads to a system that rewards schools that are able to boost their test schools by simply allowing those who do not perform well to leave their chance for an education behind. We cannot continue to make schools, which are set up as a public service, perform the way we wish our corporations would. The profit incentives that we have built into public education lead to a race to the bottom for who can provide the least amount of service for the least amount of money. Our children and our future deserve a better funding system so that all children can receive the education that our tax dollars are supposed to support.
As a public school educator, I have seen the constraints that we put on our teachers every day, especially with high stakes testing. I want to give power back to the teachers who are making daily sacrifices for our children – we need to fund our schools appropriately, live up to the promises we make to our teachers, and eliminate standardized testing as the gold standard to determine the health of a school.