Shouting 'Mayday,' Texas school leaders declare funding emergency
They said Texas underfunds its schools by $7 billion.
The demand’s urgency was prefaced by the clock ticking on the 88th legislature meeting in Austin. Lawmakers are working on a state education budget, and the session ends May 29.
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, who leads the state’s second largest district, was blunt at Monday morning's press conference.
“We are here to declare an emergency,” said Elizalde, with school board and PTA members from Richardson, Plano, Mesquite and other districts behind her, along with teachers and superintendents.
“Mayday is used primarily by pilots and sailors to raise an alarm and to request immediate rescue,” Elizalde explained. “So let me make this official. Mayday, mayday, mayday. Texas public schools are in need of immediate rescue.”
She said Texas school are currently underfunded by $7 billion. She said passing an education budget with that big of a hole would make it impossible just to keep inflation flat.
In Odessa, school leaders with Ector County and Big Spring ISDs said costs across the two districts — including maintenance, utilities and food services — have grown since 2019, but state funding to schools hasn't.
“We want to prioritize funding for teacher compensation, but we also have to keep the lights on and gas in the tank of our school buses," said Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri. "The current state budget proposal does not allow us to do both.”
Plano ISD trustee Nancy Humphrey added to the Mayday phrase, declaring “SOS,” for Support Our Schools. She said despite the state’s size and wealth, public education funding consistently falls near the bottom for per pupil spending.
Lancaster Superintendent Katrise Perera thought the state’s education funding was impressive until she travelled with a Department of Education delegation to Singapore.
“They are making an intentional effort on investing in their kids,” Perera said. “Texas is $6,100. That's sad. There, it's $11,000 per child. And the amazing access and opportunities their kids had, and the respect and honor that was given to their staff was just beyond belief for me.”
While some speakers praised current legislative bills that would increase teacher pay, speakers said it was not enough.
Add to that high teacher turnover and an ongoing population growth and need — and costs — rise more.
Doug McDonald, economic director for the City of Plano, also joined the call Monday: His mom taught for 25 years before retiring.
“The number one asset that recruits global companies to the state of Texas is our schools," McDonald said. "The number one challenge facing our companies is workforce. It’s not a simple fix.
"We have to continue building a pipeline of talent and that starts with our schools. Our future workforce is in our schools today.”
McDonald said shortchanging schools now will not bode well for the state’s future economic stability and growth.
Many hands are already reaching for a piece of the state’s budget pie and the surplus. They include tax-paying property owners wanting relief and private schools wanting voucher approval.
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