As many of you know, one of the primary responsibilities of the government of Texas is to provide education for our kids. It’s so important, it's written in the Constitution of the State of Texas. The mission as identified in Article VII, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution:
A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.
The Constitution is clear in the mandate for education. The Legislature has a duty to establish an efficient system of public free schools. The current situation within our state is far from efficient. While several attempts to solve the issues have been put before the House and Senate in Texas, no tangible improvements have been achieved. The legislature has become such a polarized and divisive environment that it is woefully incapable of addressing the problems with funding education in Texas.
Since 2011, the budget appropriations for education have been inconsistent and inadequate to the requirements of the more than 1,000 independent school districts in the state. The state has historically provided roughly half of the funding required to maintain public schools. In the last 7 years, that funding level has dropped to roughly 38% of funding from the state, which in turn forces the local school districts to either reduce costs or make up the balance by raising property taxes. Neither alternative is an attractive option for the districts. Reducing costs means reducing arts, athletics and other services that enrich a child’s education, or raising property taxes within the local community which places a hardship on the people of the community.
The central currency of the Legislature is trust. Trust is keeping commitments and resolving the tough problems that face the citizens of the state. We expect our representatives in Austin to solve problems and we trust that working for the common good will overcome any political differences that exist among the members of the legislature. We trust they will ultimately do the right thing. When that trust is breached, confidence in the legislature erodes. People seek to place blame for inaction and we become more and more polarized. Division between the political parties causes more gridlock. With more gridlock there is less accomplished and as a result, dissatisfaction with the representation in Austin increases. It is not surprising to see the citizens of the state view of Texas Legislature in such a negative light.
We must do better. It is imperative for the people we send to Austin to pass laws, support the Constitutional mandates like the delivery of an efficient public education system, and to do so in a spirit of cooperation and achievement. That spirit of cooperation and achievement for the common good doesn’t exist today. Our representatives have failed to maintain the trust they were given when elected. It is time to change the attitudes in Austin and to not accept inaction or gridlock. The education of our children is the most important investment we as a state can make for our future. A good education system that is properly funded attracts companies and jobs. It elevates the value of the communities and neighborhoods. It gives the student the tools they need to become productive adults. We cannot find short cuts to this issue and must do the hard work necessary to make the education system in Texas the envy of the country.
Please remember when you vote in November that we must elect officials who have the courage, the will and the commitment to rectify the existing problems within the education system in Texas. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is an issue for all Texans and we can demand no less than a solution to this problem that provides every student in this state with the education they need.