By José Ibarra,Texas Field Organizer and Capacity-Building Strategist, NCLR
For Texas, a state that experienced a $27 billion shortfall during the last legislative session and cut $5.4 billion from the state education budget, going over the fiscal cliff will add yet another problem to an already contentious issue. Of the education funds slashed in 2011, $1.4 billion was cut from grants and discretionary spending that largely impacted full-day pre-k, parent engagement, bilingual, after-school, credit recovery, and dropout prevention programs—all of which are largely attended by students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including many Latinos.
Should lawmakers in Washington, DC fail to resolve the fiscal cliff, the Texas budget will fall short by more than $1 billion. Over half that amount will come out of an already taxed education budget in a state where 62% of the student population is composed of racial or ethnic minorities.
A further cut of slightly more than $1 billion could translate into further job and program losses, including the firing of 1,400 teaching and educational support jobs. This would come on top of 25,000 layoffs for teachers and support staff in 2011 and 2012, despite an increase of approximately 332,000 students in the last four years. Most of the service cuts will come from Title I grants and special needs programs, which already operate on limited funds and affect underprivileged students.
The bottom line is that Texas cannot afford additional financial strains, especially with regard to the education budget that already saw drastic cuts in 2011 and prompted six lawsuits in state courts surrounding school finance. It is our obligation to urge federal lawmakers to resolve the fiscal cliff and prevent further cuts to the programs and services that affect the well-being of our children, our state, our economy, and our country.