Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letter to My Texas House Representative #TxEdBudget #SaveTxSchools

On Friday, April 1st, the Texas House will begin debate on HB 1, their budget proposal for the next biennium. Below is the text of the letter I just sent to my representative. If you are a Texan who cares about education, I hope you are also making your position known. A short and sweet email or phone call is better than nothing at all. We elect them; they represent us. They need to know our views.

Dear Representative Gonzales,

On Monday, March 21st, I visited your office and spoke with your Chief of Staff to advocate for extension of the telecommunications discount for school districts (HB 2765 and HB 3258) and for HB 6 which will create an Instructional Materials Allotment to give school districts flexibility in purchasing digital instructional materials and the technological equipment needed to support those materials. I appreciated the courtesy of your staff and later when I ran into you as you were leaving the Capitol after the House session was over, I appreciated that you took a few minutes to chat with me and a few of my colleagues by the elevators about our reasons for being at the Capitol that day.

As your constituent, with 18 years of experience in Texas public education and a concern for the future of our schools and the teaching profession in our state, I am contacting you today for a different reason.

As your constituent, I urge you to

- Vote AGAINST HB 1 as it is currently written.

- Directly contact superintendents and school board members in the school districts you represent and ask them how and why the current proposed budget cuts are forcing them to lay off employees.

- Realize that not all of your constituents agree with Governor Perry and the Tea Party in their stance that the budget should be balanced by cuts only. Finding new revenue streams is a viable and possibly necessary option.

- Have courage to advocate for and work for a permanent fix to the structural deficit and resulting school funding crisis we are in so this same budget crisis does not revisit us again in two more years.

- Consider further use of the Rainy Day Fund to help mitigate this crisis while a permanent fix is instituted.

I urge you to vote AGAINST HB 1 when it comes before the House on Friday. The cuts that it makes to public education are too steep to be absorbed without large scale employee layoffs which will impact the quality of the programs school districts are able to provide for Texas students. Not to mention the resulting impact on the Texas economy as former school employees begin to collect unemployment.

Surely you have heard of the 142 layoffs in Georgetown ISD where I work. Or the 280 current and 70 more projected layoffs in Round Rock ISD where I live. Whether these are classroom teachers, instructional specialists, program administrators, or support staff, these are people who work to ensure a quality education for the over 90% of the children in District 52 who attend public schools.

As an adult, I have primarily voted Republican because of the conservative values the party has held to in my lifetime. But conservative should not mean unwise or without compassion. It is unwise to decimate the systems which provide an educated citizenry so key to the continuing existence of our democracy. It is politically expedient, but uncompassionate, to point fingers at local school districts and say they are responsible for laying off teachers when in fact it is the State of Texas that is not meeting its financial responsibility to school districts due in part to the recession but in larger part to the existence of a structural deficit built in to the school finance system in the form of a historically underperforming business tax. In the midst of the finger pointing, the needs of our school children and those who serve them are being forgotten.

Representative Gonzales, I encourage you to vote AGAINST HB 1 and while it goes back to committee take time to look at this issue from all sides and do what is best for the citizens and school children of District 52 and the State of Texas.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

NOTE: The all caps for emphasis were used not to shout but because emails are submitted via a form on a website; I couldn't bold the things I wanted to emphasize.