RESPONSE FROM MY STATE REPRESENTATIVE- WAYNE CHRISTIAN
When I posted the article on Texas Education on Monday March 14th and it was printed in the Sabine County Reporter, I promised I would share any response from my State Representative or State Senator if received. The following is an “E” message on State letterhead from Mr. Christian today. Other than misspelling my name and some other typos it explains his position on education that you can review. I sincerely appreciate the response and I hope if Mr. Christian, or someone on his staff, will read my second posting on March 21st and another I am drafting for March 28th. The Sabine County Reporter printed the March 21st article in this weeks edition. I would like to thank the Reporter for sharing my research and facts with local citizens and will continue to print my work.
The intent of my work is not to criticize funding. I think it is time for someone in authority insist that a review is mandated to investigate the variation of funding and determine if every one of Texas 1265 school districts deserve to have funding reduced equally? I do not think that any one in Austin has the foggiest idea if every school district is equally screwed up. Punishing the good school districts with the same formula as the bad ones makes no “common sense” to me. Please see if you agree and send me your comments. I do not plan to stop my reviews as long as I have one breath left in the 80-year-old body. I care about the children of America on especially the ones in Texas. C Brewer
March 23, 2011
Dear Mr. Brwer,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I share your belief that education of our children is of primary importance to the future of the state of Texas. Our Texas Constitution mandates it as a priority of utmost importance of state government. As your state representative, I have consistently upheld that principle for more than a decade. My record reflects that I have continually supported the school funding measures and salary increases advocated by teachers and educational leaders in my district. My priorities have not changed and I continue to place education funding at the top of my list of concerns in keeping with the will of my constituents.
With all that is being reported and discussed about the revenue shortfall in Texas, I understand your concerns about the impact of anticipated budget cuts to funding for our schools. To further clarify the challenge before the Legislature in how to spend the dollars that are available, I want to share some information that you may not have previously seen. As the statistics below will demonstrate, Texas has consistently put education first and increased the overall percentage and dollar amount spent on education. In the current biennium, education was funded at 60.7 % of the entire budget. The Comptroller has reported that Texas public education spending nearly doubled during the last decade, increasing from $28 billion to nearly $55 billion and spending per pupil rose by 63% percent to almost $12,000 per pupil. If the Texas public education system were a private company it would be the fifth largest company in the world by employee count, employing 646,815 people during the 2008 fiscal year. While spending has increased for education, the teacher to non-teacher ratio has steadily risen from 5:1 in 1975 to 1:1 today. These statistics and the accompanying charts show that Texas has constantly put education first and has increased funding year after year above and beyond inflation and increased enrollment numbers.
During the decades when the Texas’ economy was booming, the Legislature invested the largest portion of the budget in public education. I have included some graphs that illustrate what I mean. However revenues have fallen due to the national economic downturn and while it appears that economic recovery is taking place in Texas, it is only occurring at about 2-3% annually which means we cannot expect to be back where we were until at least 2014. Based on the Comptroller’s report, the estimated shortfall indicates that we will have $18-28B less to spend for the 2012-2013 biennium.
So what are the options for dealing with this shortfall? The reality is that Texas cannot spend more than it expects to bring in. Our wise founders made sure of that by writing it into our Constitution that, unlike the federal government, Texas must balance her budget. Some are in favor of draining the Rainy Day Fund as a ready solution. However, spending down the entire fund of $9.4B will not “fix” the problem since it only covers about 1/3 of the shortfall and would leave us with no reserve. We would be in the same fiscal hole next budget cycle if we do not fix the underlying problem: We are spending more than we have. I will consider utilizing some portion of the Rainy Day Fund to pay off non-recurring expenses, but again this does not solve the problem. So the most responsible action is to first focus on the core responsibilities and functions of government, become more efficient and cut waste. All state funded programs, not just education, will experience budget reductions. In my own office, I have cut the budget by 10% immediately and by 14% after the legislative session and eliminated one full time staff position. Public schools must make the same tough decisions. I am of the firm belief that classroom instruction must be protected, while overgrown bureaucracy and inefficiency must be dealt with.
I agree with my constituents that there are many state programs that should be downsized before public education. I have been trumpeting this message for some time as the budget for health and human services (30% of the total budget) continues to increase. It is projected that the implementation of President Obama’s health care plan will grow Texas Medicaid rolls by 60% increasing the budget for health and human services so that it approaches or even surpasses that of education. Much of the federal funding Texas receives for programs related to health and human services, environmental regulation, highways and even education come with strings attached that force expansion of government and limit efforts to prioritize spending in accordance with what constituents and local officials say they want. Logical steps to restrain growth of the government in these areas are blocked because of the intrusion by the federal government. I am standing against, and urging my colleagues to resist, the federal unfunded mandates which siphon off resources that otherwise could be used for Texas’ priorities, starting with education. This is a fundamental issue that must be addressed if we are to manage our budget in accordance with Texan priorities.
Members of the Appropriations Committee have the responsibility to establish the amounts that each state agency will be allocated in the Appropriations bill. Although I have not been assigned to serve on the Appropriations Committee, I will work with the committee members throughout the process, debate and vote on the complete Appropriations package along with my colleagues when it passes out of Committee to the floor of the House.
Fiscal responsibility makes for hard choices now, but down the road, Texas will benefit in economic stability and growth. We have a good foundation to build upon. The Comptroller reported on March 4, 2011, that significant economic indicators, including job growth and sales tax collections, signal that the Texas economy has emerged from the recent recession. More people are moving to Texas than any other state. Our Gross State Product increased by 3.4 percent in 2010 outpacing that of the nation which increased by 2.8 percent. Ultimately, fostering economic recovery and growth in Texas through sound fiscal policy is the best way to ensure that Texas schools are well-funded and equipped to provide an excellent education for the children of Texas.
Thank you again for writing me about your concerns. If I or my staff can be of assistance, please feel free to contact my office again.
Mar 23, 2011 @ 19:54:45 [Edit]
Mar 24, 2011 @ 11:13:24 [Edit]