The movement to restore Texas school funding and restore common sense to Texas accountability testing arrived in force on the steps of the state capitol building on Saturday, March 24. Some 4,500 Texans—parents, teachers, students, and concerned citizens from all across the state—delivered a strong message of support for Texas public schools.
Support for our schools has been notably lacking in the state legislature. Legislative majorities egged on by Gov. Rick Perry have seen fit to cut funding while imposing over-the-top testing requirements that interfere with teaching and learning.
Among the speakers at the March 24 Save Texas Schools rally was Texas AFT President Linda Bridges, who billed the event as “an incredible opportunity for everyone to come together and let lawmakers know that voters won’t stand for underfunding our schools.” Texas AFT members from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and the Rio Grande Valley joined colleagues from Austin and other points among the thousands who gathered on the south steps of the capitol.
Texas AFT member Montserrat Garibay, from our Education Austin affiliate, also was a featured speaker. Garibay, a bilingual pre-K teacher with National Board certification, testified eloquently to the destructive impact of current budget cuts on students and schools in Austin ISD. “What a shame,” she cried out, that our state leaders and legislative majorities have been so willing to shortchange our students and educators.
State lawmakers who led the fight against those cuts–and who continue to do battle for Texas schoolchildren–urged rally participants to help win the fight for public education and change the outcome next session in the legislature, by taking action at the ballot box in upcoming primary and general elections. They drew outspoken support from a diverse, bipartisan group of allies, including both Republican and Democratic state and federal officeholders, such as State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff and U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.
Citizen organizers of the Save Texas Schools community/educator/parent coalition have reason to be proud of what they accomplished with this bracing event in Austin on Saturday. The rally was a strong kickoff for the coming months of work carrying the coalition message to fellow Texans in both the 2012 election arena and the 2013 legislative process.
We encourage you to support the Save Texas Schools agenda by signing onto this online petition at www.savetxschools.org:
“We, the undersigned, believe that a strong public school system is the most important investment we can make in our children and our state’s economic future. Yet Texas had already fallen to 44th nationally in per pupil funding even before the legislature cut an additional $5.4 billion from public education in 2011.
“We call on all state leaders – both officeholders and candidates – to pledge their support for the following emergency actions in the next legislative session:
- Make outstanding public education a top priority for Texas.
- Restore all school funding cuts made by the 2011 legislature and provide sufficient resources for our growing student population.
- Revise school finance laws to be fair to all students.
- Fix the $5 billion annual structural deficit to avoid further cuts to education.
- Reevaluate and limit high-stakes standardized testing.
“We can no longer afford leaders who fail to recognize the critical importance of a strong public education system to our economy and our future. We’re watching, we’ll remember and we vote.
“Our future depends on it.”