Some Texas public schools are facing budget concerns as they enter the next school year without an increase in funding from the legislature.
Texas Public Schools Face Budget Concerns
Despite having a $33 billion dollar budget surplus, the regular legislative session concluded without fulfilling promises of increasing teacher pay and school funding, KXAN reported.
This has left some public schools, like Burnet CISD, with a budget concerns deficit for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.
In a district-wide email to families, Burnet CISD Superintendent Keith McBurnett addressed the $1.3 million dollar deficit and expressed the need for difficult choices due to the lack of action from the Legislature.
McBurnett attributed the budget concerns to the expiration of formula transition grants, which were designed to provide at least a 3% increase in per-student funding to districts that may not experience enrollment growth.
The district is projecting a $625,000 loss from the non-extension of these grants.
McBurnett called for a Special Session to address the budget concerns and school funding issue immediately, criticizing the Legislature for not fulfilling its Constitutional duty.
Experts Advise on Budget Concerns of Texas Public Schools
Experts, such as Mary Lynn Pruneda from Texas 2036, acknowledged the complexity of school finance and budget concerns but suggested that districts like Burnet CISD could raise their tax rates to offset the deficit in funds.
However, they emphasized the importance of the Legislature increasing the basic allotment and investing more in public education, particularly in teacher salaries.
During this legislative session, a House bill aimed at allocating additional funds to schools failed to pass after the Senate amended it to include education savings account programs, also known as Governor Greg Abbott’s “school voucher” proposal.
Mark Wiggins, a senior lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, blamed the push for school voucher programs by top Republicans for exacerbating the ongoing teacher staffing crisis and hindering budgetary decisions.
There is hope among advocates that funding deficiencies and budget concerns will be addressed in a special session focused on education. However, Wiggins expressed skepticism due to the inclusion of school vouchers in the discussion.
He criticized tying vouchers, teacher pay, and school funding together and pointed out that the Senate, lieutenant governor, and governor have made it clear that substantial changes to school funding will only happen if a voucher program is attached.
The timing is concerning as schools are late in the year to explore alternative funding sources, adding urgency to finding viable solutions for budgetary decision-making.