When it Comes to Educating our Children, Failure is Not an Option
When I was in school as a boy, I was a migrant farm worker who did not speak English. I would not have a college education, a law degree, my Marine training, nor my invaluable experiences as a state legislator had it not been for the incredible teachers I had as a child. These teachers took the time to teach me English, writing, and reading. These teachers also gave me the foundation I needed to build upon to succeed in both school and life.
This month, the legislature will return to Austin again to try and address Texas' under funded school finance system. This time the Texas Supreme Court has imposed a June 1st deadline.
The legislature has tried and failed many times to restructure both the tax system that pays for schools and the method that determines how the money will be spent once it is raised. These are complicated issues that affect every one of us, and we cannot afford to be distracted by so-called "reforms," such as vouchers or school board elections, that some groups will try to inject into the discussion. We also cannot be tempted to rely on the state's $4 billion so-called surplus as a quick fix to a problem that requires a long-term solution, not a convenient means for the legislature to pat itself on the back.
It is clear to me that our schools need new money. They need new money for teacher pay raises. They need new money for buildings and materials. They need new money for increased transportation and energy costs. They need new money to meet the mandated academic standards required by the state and federal governments.
At the same time, Texans need property tax relief. The Texans I talk to are willing to pay for excellent public schools, but they have had enough of being taxed to the limit while the state's tax structure allows many to avoid paying their fair share.
I support a low, broad-based and equitable business tax that will eliminate the current loopholes that allow certain businesses to avoid making contributions to our education system. Under such a proposal, the state would relieve property owners' tax burdens by supporting schools with business tax revenue.
It's important, but not enough, to provide property tax relief. During the upcoming special session, I will fight to increase our schools' resources. To have bright, healthy, and happy children who will grow into educated professionals and productive citizens, we must provide them with quality schools. Children need to be surrounded by motivated, caring teachers who have the dedication and patience to teach not only the most capable students but also the students who have learning disabilities, abusive homes, behavioral disorders, or little to no comprehension of the English language.
Schools and teachers work hard in meeting our state's requirements, and teachers deserve fair compensation for their work. Likewise, children deserve up-to-date materials, un-crowded classrooms and permanent buildings. These high goals will pay off in teacher retention, increased graduation rates, and improved college success. This month in Austin, Texans across the state must come together and show, with their tax dollars, that they're willing to pay the necessary cost for the priceless results teachers and schools can make in the lives of our children.
Failure is not an option.
State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, represents the people of District 20, which includes Nueces, Hidalgo, Brooks and Jim Wells counties.