Education should be valued higher

In 2011, Texas cut $5.4 billion from Texas public schools’ funding. In the same year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated 82,500 more people were considered impoverished than the year before.

How the cut was passed is beyond me. I work with those impoverished children at La Vega ISD, a school district just 5 miles north of Baylor. I see the meals they are provided: undercooked corn dogs and chicken nuggets. Oh, and pizza, which Congress considers a serving of vegetables.

Beyond Texas’ growing obesity epidemic and the malnutrition of children, the misappropriation of funds only continues.

How about Greg Abbott’s deployment of the State Guard to monitor Navy SEAL military training in West Texas? A response to conspiracy theories which proved to be a farce. That cost a few dollars.

Or the bypassing of Denton’s ban on fracking and the propping up of oil companies? It was a means to ensure such bans can be prevented in the future. So much for democracy and the free-market economy.

But on paper, it might seem like schools are receiving breaks from the government. In June 2015, relief in the form of property tax cuts for schools shaved off some unnecessary spending. But the same package also cut corporate property taxes, and ensured $250 million in professional fees would be waived for 2016-17. There may have been more on the mind of our legislators than saving school districts some money.

To be fair, the bill that cut the $5.4 billion from education in the first place was met with swift criticism. Lawsuits took effect, and much of the money has been redistributed throughout the state. But the damages took their toll.

According to the Texas Tribune, 2016 is projected to find 29 percent of schools will still receive less funding than they did prior to the budget cuts. That number is projected to only drop 5 percentage points for 2017.

All this fiscal talk brings up an interesting question: where are our legislators’ values? Those guys and gals in Austin can’t be all bad. In fact, I guarantee not a single legislator wants children to be poorly fed and undereducated. The truth is, investing in children is expensive. It is time consuming. It requires careful planning and consistency.

No, no one wants a bad future for children. It’s not a matter of preference it is a matter of priority. Ranking 38th in the nation for dollars spent per child, education is clearly not a priority in Texas. Investments in advancing the state economy and boosting job growth may see early returns–but as long as they keep cutting costs where it matters, the bubble will burst. This type of behavior is unsustainable, like our reliance on oil. It’s toxic like Flint water. And it’s happening now.

Gavin Pugh is a junior journalism major from Coppell. He is an assistant city editor for the Lariat.