Monday, February 28, 2011

A Letter In Support Of Texas Schools

Our elected officials are wrestling with the state budget and our children's education is in desperate need of voices to try to head off drastic cuts. Legislators don't seem to understand the depths of their proposed cuts, but you can write a letter to help educate them and, hopefully, influence them to find a way to avoid throttling the Texas education system.

This is not a partisan issue: It is something that affects every citizen of our state, especially our kids! Let's work together to find solutions to help fund our children's education.

If you have or know a child attending a Texas public school (in AISD or elsewhere) please read the following and then send letters to your state representative, state senator and members of the Senate and House Education Committees. At the end of this post is a letter ready to be cut and pasted into an e-mail that you can send to your legislators, as well as a shortcut to their various websites.

Austin-Specific Call to Action

AISD is facing a $113 million budget shortfall. Your child's education is at risk. AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is recommending that the Austin School Board eliminate more than 700 teaching positions. How did we get to this point?

A Little History: Robin Hood

In 1993 a court-mandated school financing program was enacted to "recapture" property tax revenue from property-wealthy school districts and redistribute those funds to property-poor districts. Nicknamed the "Robin Hood Tax" by the media, this law robs AISD of 45% of every penny raised through tax revenue. That equates to more than $127 million dollars that our district loses EVERY year.

Our state legislators need to understand the dire need to fund our district's public schools properly. We cannot let politics and a law written over 17 years ago bankrupt our children's education today.

Our Government Leaders Must Fund Our Public Schools Adequately

For the 2009-2010 school year, Texas ranked 37th in the nation in spending per pupil, at $9,227 per student, $1,359 below the national average of $10,586.

10 years ago, Texas was also 37th in spending among states but only fell short of the national average by $281 per student.

Under "Robin Hood" Austin ISD is considered a "land rich" district, yet 60% of our students live below the poverty line!

We have to let our elected officials know that we support our schools and they should, too. How can Texas continue to attract new business if we do not have an educated work force? When legislators speak of enacting laws "for our children" their top priority should be our children's current education!

Cut, Paste and Send

At the end of this post is a letter that you can cut, paste and send to the list of legislators whose links are included at the bottom of this post.

Please take the time to make your voice heard.

Engage Your Family and Friends in This Campaign

We need to make the proper funding of our public schools a top-of-mind issue for all of our legislators. Please forward this post to friends and family members who know Texas students. Our government leaders need to understand how important this issue is to all of us.

How to Find Your State Reps

Click here then enter your ZIP Code and then you can click on your representatives' names to be taken directly to their websites.

The kids are counting on you.

Thank You

Letter/E-mail to Cut-and-Paste (or Create Your Own and Share It!)

Subject Line: Please Restore FULL Funding to State Education

Dear xxxx,

When it comes to frugality, taxpayers hear over and over again how legislators enact laws to protect our children's futures. We all applaud this responsible view of government and the money that funds its operation, but there is one area where surely we must weigh frugality with a real need. That area is our children's education.

I know that Texas legislators are struggling with a budget shortfall and we support every effort to make reasonable adjustments to the way we live our lives in times of austerity, but we must not sacrifice our children's future by cutting funding for their education.

And, instead of just asking you to "fund education," I feel it vitally important that as a citizen and taxpayer I am willing to offer suggestions and take part in discussions of what we can do to help, as well as make shared sacrifices that will lead to a better education for all Texas children.

Here are some suggestions for saving money:

  • Support House Bill 233, which exempts high-performing students from TAKS/STAAR testing in non-exit years
  • Consolidate school districts where possible (there are 17 districts in Bexar county, for example)
  • Support SB 504, which makes school districts eligible for discounted utility rates
  • Allow districts to institute teacher furloughs on non-instructional days (this would save $2.5 million/day in AISD)
  • Enact no new legislation that calls for increased spending at the expense of education

Here are some suggestions for raising money:

  • Accept the federal governnment's $830 million: The money is there; Texas should take it and channel it to our schools now
  • Tighten the margin tax and close tax loopholes wherever possible
  • Find items to tax where the revenues could be targeted to support Texas schools; for instance, bottled water
  • Tap into the Rainy Day Fund (some of it, not all of it!)

Finally, and maybe most important:

Would I be willing to pay more taxes if those revenues went to educating Texas schoolkids? You bet I would!

Citizens of Texas are concerned that we are letting our children down, which, in turn, will bring down the great state of Texas in years to come. I ask you to commit to fully funding our children's education now, and into the future, so our kids can reap the rewards of a great Texas education.


[Your Name]

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