The 82nd Texas Legislature convened in January and by now most of you have either seen, heard, or read about the multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall. The proposed baseline budget for the next biennium contains crippling cuts for almost all state entities, including public education. The latest estimates show an almost $10 billion reduction in education funding. Legislative committees are meeting daily to discuss the budget, but few solutions have been proposed.
In my experience, our local State Representative, Susan King, does an excellent job representing Nolan County school districts in Austin. Representative King is receptive to comments and suggestions from district superintendents, and I appreciate her support. Unfortunately, not all state officials are as supportive of public education. It seems that many in Austin are trying to use the state’s financial problems to cripple Texas public schools. The education of Texas children is too important to cut back on funding, especially now with the impending increases in accountability standards.
John Kuhn, superintendent of Perrin-Whitt CISD, recently wrote a letter to his state legislators. Perrin-Whitt is a rural district northeast of Mineral Wells with approximately 400 students. Mr. Kuhn’s letter was first printed in the Washington Post, and has since been reprinted in several other newspapers. The letter is similar in wording to the famous letter sent by Colonel William Travis from the Alamo in February, 1836. My quoting of the Mr. Kuhn’s letter is not intended as an indictment of particular individuals, but as a “wake-up call” to the condition of public education today and the perils of the future.
Mr. Kuhn’s letter:
I am besieged, by a hundred or more of the Legislators under Rick Perry. I have sustained a continual Bombardment of increased high-stakes testing and accountability-related bureaucracy and a cannonade of gross underfunding for 10 years at least and have lost several good men and women. The ruling party has demanded another round of pay cuts and furloughs, while the school house be put to the sword and our children’s lunch money be taken in order to keep taxes low for big business. I am answering the demand with a (figurative) cannon shot, and the Texas flag still waves proudly from our flag pole. I shall never surrender the fight for the children of Perrin.
Then, I call on you my legislators in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy of public schools is declaring that spending on a shiny new high-stakes testing system is “non-negotiable”; that, in essence, we must save the test but not the teachers. The enemy of public schools is saying that Texas lawmakers won’t raise 1 penny in taxes in order to save our schools.
If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and fight for the kids in these classrooms like an educator who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his community. Make education a priority!
With all due respect and urgency,
Guy Nelson is the Superintendent at Highland Independent School District. Comments about this column may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .