Several superintendents during TASA's Midwinter Conference mentioned that having talking points at the ready would be helpful for speaking to legislators, members of the media and the community about how budget cuts will affect public schools and why it's important for lawmakers to Make Education a Priority.
TASA and TASB staff generated some talking points when we were preparing for editorial board meetings at newspapers across the state in the fall. At those meetings, members of TASA and TASB talked about the state of school funding and how budget cuts would affect their districts.
Here are some of the broad points they covered. Feel free to use these in your own districts.
- Because of changes the Legislature made to the school finance system in 2006, our district has been operating with essentially the same amount of per-pupil revenue for the past five years. Meanwhile, annual costs - including a state-mandated teacher pay raise - have continued to go up. Standards have continued to increase as well, which means districts are not only being asked to do more with less, but do it better.
- The next two years bring even more challenges and districts need adequate funding to meet those challenges. (Here talk about your district's growing or declining enrollment and explain how the scenario affects your district's bottom line, such as hiring more personnel, building facilities for growing districts, the challenges of less funding for declining enrollment and decisions that have to be made of closing schools for districts with declining enrollment. Also talk about growing population of economically disadvantaged, LEP and special education students and how these groups require more personalized instruction.)
- During the 2012-13 school year, we will begin administering end-of-course exams, which will be more rigorous than the exit-level TAKS. Despite the budget deficit, lawmakers have so far been adamant that there should be no delay in implementing the new system, even though they acknowledge the financial strain it will place on districts. (Be specific about what types of programs will need to be implemented to prepare students for EOC's and other costs associated with the new testing program.)
- Because we have been in financial crisis since the Legislature froze funding levels in 2006, our district has already cut costs wherever possible. (Give specific examples of cost-cutting measures.)
- During this past school year, we spent $__ per student, of which $__ went directly to instruction. Only __ percent of the district's budget was spent on district administration and __ percent was spent on campus administration. If our state funding is cut at the level that lawmakers are now talking about, we anticipate having to cut the following programs and services: (be as specific as you can.)
- Failing to invest in today's schoolchildren is dangerous and ultimately unfair. Texas children need and deserve a quality education. If funding is cut for our schools, our students and the state's economy will pay the price.