Gary Scharrer | Houston Chronicle
February 1, 2012
Gov. Rick Perry should call Texas legislators back to the Capitol for a special session to spare more public school cuts next year now that the economic recovery is producing more revenue than expected, a teachers group said Wednesday.
The state ended the 2011 budget year with a $1.1 billion surplus, Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, noted and the current budget cycle is expected to produce another $1.6 billion surplus.
Perry should ask lawmakers to tap into the state’s $7.3 billion rainy day fund to avoid more school layoffs and larger class sizes next year, Howard and Texas State Teachers Association President Rita Haecker said.
The Republican-controlled Legislature last year cut $5.4 billion from public education for the current two-year budget, which forced school districts to cut about 32,000 school employees, including 12,000 teachers, Haecker said.
More than 8,200 elementary classes are larger than the cap set by state law.
“It is time to stop the bleeding and stop the cuts, now,” she said.
There’s little likelihood that Perry will call legislators into a special legislative cuts to spare more school cuts next year.
“There are no plans to call a special session on this or any other issue. Thanks to Gov. Perry’s fiscally conservative leadership Texas has a balanced budget and has increased funding to Texas public schools by billions of dollars,” Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said.
Howard passed an amendment last year that would have sent money to school districts to help fund the annual 80,000-student enrollment increase if the Rainy Day Fund passed a certain threshold. But the amendment got stripped from the final bill.
The willingness to cut more education funding instead of using surplus tax revenue will become a campaign issue this year, both Haecker and Howard said.
“We need to hear from parents across the state,” Howard said.
The state’s future workforce and economic develop hinge on a better education population, both Howard and Haecker said.
Education cuts, they said, send a wrong message about the priority of education.
“You can sense in our community their frustration and anger. You will see their willingness to take a role in changing the outcome of this,” Haecker said.
The Texas State Teachers Association will be circulating petitions, urging Perry to call a special session.