State of Texas: Students still feel impact from 2011 Texas school budget cuts

FILE - Students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students in Texas public schools are still feeling the impact from budget cuts made during the great recession. That’s the finding of a report from UT and the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

In 2011, state lawmakers cut more than $5 billion dollars. “The legislature was facing about a $27 billion shortfall during that session,” explained Chandra Villanueva, a senior policy analyst for CPPP.  She spoke with Robert Hadlock on Sunday morning’s State of Texas program. “They decided to cut public education instead of using the rainy day fund at the time to keep the levels steady.”

It took until last year for school funding to reach the levels before the cuts. Despite that increase, the report shows that Texas public schools are still spending less money per student than they did before the cuts. Some students feel the impact more than others.

“What we found was that campuses that have really high concentrations of low-income students really saw dramatic cuts in bilingual education,” Villanueva said. The study found funding for bilingual education dropped 40 percent, and funding for programs aimed at keeping elementary school students from falling behind dropped 21 percent. “So, students that need support the most are the ones that lost the most.”

State lawmakers recently created a commission to study school finance. Finding funding will be difficult. “In addition to being behind on school spending, health care is always a big budget item, we left about a 2-billion dollar I.O.U. to Medicaid,” Villanueva said. Damage from hurricane Harvey also created large costs to the state. Schools will likely have a hard time trying to overcome the impact of cuts in the past.

“Until we put more money into this system, we’re eight years behind in funding,” Villanueva said.

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