Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Raining! Why Texas Should Use the Rainy Day Fund

I am home today with a sick pet. While she rests and we wait to go to the vet, I have been reading up on the latest information to cross my screen regarding the Texas education budget crisis.

I am not glad my pet is sick, but I'm very glad I came across a Tweet from MrDW30 which linked to an article from the Center for Public Policy Priorities regarding the origin of the Texas Rainy Day Fund, examples of how it has been used in the past, and why it makes sense to use it in the financial situation Texas currently finds itself in. I only hope that those who subscribe to Governor Perry's "hands off the fund" approach will read this article and see the sense that is in it.

The full article, Using the Rainy Day Fund to Ensure Our Recovery and Prosperity, is six pages long and well worth the reading. I posted a link to it for my friends on Facebook along with some compelling excerpts which I am also sharing here. I believe these excerpts can form the basis for talking points as you share with your colleagues and friends the important fact that the impending budget crisis can be avoided if our legislators approach it in a balanced, reasonable manner. You might also cite this article in correspondence with your legislators.

Here are some quotes which stood out to me (bolding is mine):
"The Legislature told voters that if they saved tax dollars in the Rainy Day Fund, those dollars would be used to maintain current services in the event of an economic downturn. Voters took the deal, approving the constitutional amendment creating the fund in November 1988. The amendment became Article 3, Section 49-g, of the Texas Constitution."
"In 1991, the Legislature spent the entire balance ($28.8 million) on public schools, and in 1993, spent the entire balance ($197 million) for criminal justice. In 2003, to deal with the last economic downturn, the Legislature appropriated $1.3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund."
"...if we don’t use all of the Rainy Day Fund now to help maintain vital public services, the damage in 2012-13 is certain and great. Cuts would imperil our economic recovery. In the short run, Texas would lose 250,000 public and private jobs just because of the cuts to public education. In the long run, cuts to education would threaten our future prosperity if we shortchanged an entire group of Texas children."
"Why make a decision today to deeply cut critical public services for 2012-13 because we are worried that we might not have the money in 2014-15 to continue to provide the services? Texas has both the time and a process to adjust the budget if the economy does not continue to improve. This same process allows for budget adjustments to address any emergency such as a hurricane."
‎"The Constitution requires a three-fifths vote of the members present to spend the Rainy Day Fund to prevent a deficit in a current budget or to offset a decline in available revenue for a future budget. If all members were present, that would require 90 votes in the House and 19 in the Senate."
"The Rainy Day Fund was created by Texans who knew what it was like to deal with a crisis that threatens economic growth and future prosperity. While they wanted to preserve the fund for real crisis and important needs, they intended it to be used in the very sort of circumstances we now face. Texans will not abide billions ($9.4 billion) kept in the treasury while classrooms are crowded and teachers are fired, while promising young Texans are denied access to college, and while low-income children, the elderly, and those with disabilities are denied the humane protection of a compassionate state."
The entire article is very compelling and very easy to read. I understand more now about why the Rainy Day Fund exists, and I am more convinced than ever that it exists for the exact circumstances we are in today. I encourage you to read it in its entirety for yourself.

But don't stop there. Are you discussing this with your colleagues? I ran into some folks I used to teach with at lunch yesterday, two of them active teachers and one a retired teacher subbing for the day, and none of them were aware of the Save Texas Schools Rally on March 12th, and I suspect that means they probably aren't writing their representatives either. Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are wonderful, but it is my opinion that the most compelling conversations, the ones that move people to action, are the ones that take place in person. If you are reading this blog, then great! Now, go spread the word to everyone who isn't reading. Let's prove this blogger wrong in his appraisal of Texas teachers...