A Plano middle school was the stage for a political call to arms by North Texas School Board Trustees who want more involvement from the parents of children educated in public schools.
“The collective voice, the chorus is what needs to be heard,” said Plano ISD trustee, Missy Bender.
Bender is one of four trustees to speak openly about the school funding crisis and the need for parents to start pressuring lawmakers to make decisions in the interest of education and not just government spending.
Trustees say bills from both houses of the Texas government gut classroom instruction and will result in thousands of teacher layoffs, however the Senate budget is the preference because it includes almost $4 billion more in public school funding.
“We're looking at an increase in class size up to, potentially, 35-to-1,” said Dallas ISD trustee, Edwin Flores.
The statewide student population is growing by nearly 80,000 students per year, but the funding mechanism for education has remained the same.
“When we froze property taxes and we froze funding at 2006 levels, they created an unsustainable tax structure,” said Cedar Hill ISD trustee, Sonya Grass. “We're now paying the price for that.”
As a taxing entity, school districts have little control over how or where money generated by taxes in their districts is spent. They'd like more control over that as well as using the state’s Rainy Day Fund to fund education.
They're also seeking an elimination of unproductive tax breaks and a complete restructuring of school finance legislation, at the same time they understand that litigation may be necessary as they’ve failed thus far to get lawmakers to budge on cuts.
“Historically, to truly change funding in the state of Texas, what's occurred? Lawsuits,” said trustee Bowie Hogg of the Arlington ISD.
Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other forms of social media are spreading the message of how critical the issue of school funding is and what may happen if it’s not done -- putting schools in the same situation in 2013, facing massive cuts and layoffs.
“We aren't asking for more money,” said Bender. “We're asking for enough money to educate an increasingly diverse student population.”