Hundreds rally at Capitol for public education

Click here to view this article on the Statesman – March 25, 2017

Hundreds gathered at the Capitol on Saturday morning to rally for Texas public schools.

The rally, organized by the nonpartisan coalition Save Texas Schools and the advocacy group Austin Voices For Education and Youth, called for more money from the Legislature for public schools in Texas. Speakers included state Sen. Kirk Watson and state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, both Austin Democrats.

“The Texas school finance system is broken, but our schools are not broken,” said Watson, the former Austin mayor who represents parts of Travis County. “Imagine what teachers and school officials could do for our kids if we actually provided our schools with the resources they need to help students thrive in the 21st century.”

Watson said the Legislature has a constitutional responsibility to provide for public schools and that lawmakers are failing the children.

“The Legislature must provide more funding to our schools and must reform the system so that school funding reflects the true costs of educating our children,” he said. “Texas has the ability to invest in our children, but we have to make them a priority.”

Hinojosa said it was the perfect time to hold a rally around education because it’s budget time at the Capitol. She said the House has $1.5 billion for Texas public schools, but the Senate has chosen to take that money to “pad the rest of its budget.”

“Parents and teachers in this state are just sick and tired and done with excuses for short-changing our children,” Hinojosa said. “We know it’s a tough budget year — we get that. But there are critical needs in our public schools and the time to fund those has come and gone. We need action now!”

Last week in the Republican-controlled Legislature, a Senate plan to use public money to help pay for private and religious education made it out of committee and was headed for a floor vote. Although many GOP senators support such so-called school choice plans, other Republicans in the House worry about harming public schools in the small communities they represent.

Reyna Osorio, 44, attended the rally with her son and daughter, who attend school in the Austin school district, to show her support for the public school system. Osorio said she hopes Texas will give more funding to public schools so her children can make the most out of their education.

“If (legislators) think public schools are not good for kids, then why are there so many professionals and (college) graduates who come from public schools?” she said.

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