In a bold statement, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick recently addressed the ongoing debate about public school funding in Texas. Contradicting claims by educators and Democratic lawmakers, Patrick asserted that the state’s public schools are not underfunded. He emphasized that a significant portion of the state budget is dedicated to education, with “one out of every $2 on public education and higher education accounting for fifty per cent of our budget.”
Patrick also highlighted recent developments in the state’s funding of public schools, noting an increase of “14 to 18% just this session.” This statement underscores the state’s commitment to supporting public education financially.
However, this perspective is not universally shared. Jon Dahlander, Chief of Partnerships and Intergovernmental Affairs at Dallas ISD, pointed out that the funds allocated by the state have not kept pace with inflation. Dahlander’s statement reflects a broader concern among school districts across Texas regarding the adequacy of current funding levels.
Moreover, some Democratic lawmakers in the Texas House believe an additional $40 billion is required to bring public schools up to the proper funding level. This figure starkly contrasts with the state’s current budget allocations, indicating a significant disparity in perspectives on adequate school funding.
One of the notable issues highlighted is the passing of deficit budgets by school districts such as Dallas and Plano ISDs. Patrick commented on this, mentioning that while he cannot explain the specifics of each district’s budget decisions, he observed that many districts had spent one-time funds received during the COVID-19 pandemic on hiring, which might have contributed to their current financial challenges.
Legislatively, there have been efforts to address these funding concerns. The Senate passed SB 2 to provide more money per student and raise teacher pay. However, the House has not yet taken up this bill. In contrast, Governor Greg Abbott has indicated he would veto any education bill that does not include taxpayer-financed education savings accounts, adding another layer of complexity to the issue.
Additionally, the question of school security funding is on the table, with the House approving HB 2 to provide districts with grants for campus improvements, pending voter approval. Yet, this, too, faces legislative hurdles, with different measures being considered in the Senate.
In summary, the debate over public school funding in Texas is multi-faceted and complex. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s statements represent one viewpoint in a larger conversation involving lawmakers, educators, and other stakeholders. The resolution of these funding issues will be crucial for the future of public education in Texas.