It’s no secret that our public schools face a lot of challenges right now.
The Legislature cut $5.4 billion in education funding last session, and even though a state judge has recently ruled our school finance system unconstitutional, the Republican leadership isn’t exactly rushing to put more money into education.
While the debate about school funding goes unresolved, there are some other education-related issues getting quite a bit of attention right now. For example, school security has been in the news since the tragedy at Sandy Hook — unfortunately, most of the ideas proposed in Austin so far have to do with getting more guns in schools.
There is also a renewed emphasis on providing students more options in school, so that there are sound career and technology offerings, as well. Good idea, but good programs don’t come for free — they take an investment in infrastructure and equipment that many schools simply don’t have the money for.
So that’s why I introduced two bills last week that would allocate a small portion of the Rainy Day Fund for one-time grants for school security upgrades and career and technology education equipment, for a total of $500 million. This is just over four percent of the $12 billion that is projected to be in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the next biennium.
These bills would give schools some of the resources they so badly need to protect their students and better train and educate our future workforce.
Two years ago, Democrats called for using the Rainy Day Fund to lessen the impact of school budget cuts. Governor Perry and other Republican leaders said that was not an option — the Rainy Day Fund was only for “one-time use,” not recurring expenses. Now, this is a novel theory that is highly debatable, but assuming we accept it for argument’s sake, here are a couple of relatively small “one-time” expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund to help our schools.
Governor Perry and others have lately been promoting the “one-time use” of $2 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to pay for water infrastructure projects. That’s an important issue, and we’ll see what kind of proposal eventually comes up in the House. But if we can spend billions on new pipelines and reservoirs, surely we can spend millions on keeping our kids safe at school and broadening their educational opportunities.
As I told the Star-Telegram last week, what better one-time expense would there be than to make our schools safer?