It’s Greg Abbott’s fault if your school district is facing a budget crunch

News item #1: Houston-area school districts brace for big budget cuts.

Staring down a $100 million deficit budget, even after deciding to close three campuses in February, Aldine ISD trustees have a difficult decision to make this week.

Voting on Aldine ISD’s budget on Monday will involve a 10% cut to the district’s budget, including 100 employees. The proposed budget comes after the board voted to close Conley, Sammons and Gray elementaries earlier this year. And more campuses may need to be closed before the 2025-2026 year to remain afloat.

“In recent years, Aldine ISD has had to face some tough realities: student enrollment declines, a lack of affordable housing throughout the community, declining birth rates, and decreased funding from the state,” district spokesperson Sylvia Samuell wrote.

The district on the north side of Houston is led by well-known superintendent LaTonya Goffney, and is praised for innovations like its year-round school calendar at some elementary campuses. Over the past four years since the pandemic, the district has lost more than 6,000 students, putting enrollment at 59,996.

At least six other districts across the Houston area have reported multi-million dollar deficits as they face the 2024-2025 budgeting process this summer, totaling at least $850 million in shortfalls.

“It really is a perfect storm,” said Bob Popinski, executive director of Raise Your Hand Texas. “Since 2019, we’ve had double-digit inflation. So think, increased costs in fuel, property and casualty insurance and construction costs and health insurance costs, and even food services.”


A recent report from the Texas Education Agency shows that state funding has actually decreased over the past 10 years Gov. Greg Abbott has been in office, when accounting for double-digit inflation, according to the TEA.

In 2014, the total per student revenue from state and local taxes was $6,680, but when adjusted for inflation, that sum dropped to $6,669 in 2023. And in the same year, just looking at state funding, the sum was $4,235, a number also dropped to $4,196 when adjusted for inflation in 2023, according to the report.

A recent report from the Texas Association of School Business Officials shows that over half the 313 districts surveyed across the state are projecting deficit budgets for fiscal year 2024.

“Nearly 80% of respondents face challenges with deficit budgets or insufficient resources, a concern ranking among the top three challenges for half of them,” reads the May 2024 report overview

Just under half the districts surveyed are presently undergoing significant cuts, and over half said they would have to take teacher raises out of cuts. More than 175 districts reported that they would need to make budget cuts and use their fund balance to stay afloat.

“The headlines from now until the beginning of next school year are going to be kind of jaw dropping in the amount of programs being cut,” Popinski said.

News item #2, a similar story from the Fort Worth area.

Superintendent Michael McFarland was anxious as his team assembled Crowley ISD’s next budget.

Numbers were tight for the growing school district. So much so that McFarland turned to Chief Financial Officer Leon Fisher in meetings and asked, “Are you sure, man?”

McFarland and Fisher recently presented the district’s preliminary 2024-25 budget to the school board. They expect a nearly $23 million deficit to draw down the district’s reserves to $14.2 million. Trustees and administrators blamed the school district’s financial situation, which leaders have expected since early 2024, on state lawmakers not increasing public education funding.

“In case you’re wondering, it is raining in the school system. It’s not one of those natural storms. This is a man-made, politically made storm,” McFarland said.


The superintendent and CFO pointed to several factors crunching the district’s budget:

  • The state’s new $100,000 homestead exemption led to an estimated loss of 18 cents from each property tax bill.
  • The freezing of property taxes of residents who are either disabled or 65 or older meant a $10 million reduction in revenue.
  • The state’s lowering of Crowley ISD’s tax rate as property values increase

School board President Daryl Davis added two more reasons.

“This is all in the face of funding levels from 2019 and funding on average daily attendance rather than enrollment,” Davis said.

News item #3: There’s a simple and obvious solution. Greg Abbott refuses to consider it and is instead casting blame on the school districts themselves.

State Representative Steve Allison called on Governor Greg Abbott to convene a special session to address the pressing funding issues facing the state’s public schools as more school districts announce massive layoffs.

In a recent op-ed for the San Antonio Express-News, Allison emphasized that the future of more than 5.4 million public school students, thousands of public school employees and Texas communities are at stake.

Allison’s urgency comes as some of the largest school districts in Texas are facing huge deficits and have announced massive layoffs to address the problem. Some lawmakers have urged Abbott to call a special session to address school funding, but Abbott has refused.

Last year, the state had a record $32 billion surplus, but the government failed to increase funding for public schools. Allison noted that the state hasn’t increased the base per-pupil allocation since 2019, and that “this failure has contributed to our state’s low national ranking in per-student funding and teacher compensation.”

Abbott, on the other hand, has blamed schools for his financial woes.

“If you don’t like the budget cuts at your child’s school — tough! It’s your school’s fault,” Abbott said. He also said schools were misusing a federal pandemic found and blamed the House for not passing HB1, a package that would have increased public school funding but with limits.

“Suffice it to say, these accusations are disingenuous at best and simply not supported by facts,” Allison wrote. “The federal pandemic funds that went to both the state and school districts were known to be temporary. HB1 did indeed include provisions that address current needs, but it also included controversial unrelated private school voucher provisions, which are being pushed by Abbott.”

Since the House failed to pass HB1, Abbott has refused to consider increasing school funding without a school choice proposal.

“The inescapable fact is that Abbott held the needs of school districts hostage for his private school voucher plan,” Allison said.

Just a reminder here that flipping Rep. Allison’s HD121, for which there are better prospects given his primary loss, would at least help block Abbott’s vouchermania in 2025. He may never give in on funding the schools, but we can at least deny him what he wants.

Anyway, just a reminder of why we are where we are. And another item on my list of complaints about Mike Miles, as he has yet to make the obvious and necessary point that HISD’s budget issues are also in large part Greg Abbott’s fault. You can acknowledge that reality any time, Mike.

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3 Responses to It’s Greg Abbott’s fault if your school district is facing a budget crunch

  1. Meme says:

    We need the state to give us tax relief. They can cut the sales tax by two cents. Most people don’t know that the average homeowner pays as much sales tax as property tax.

    In the alternative put into the public schools.

    Nearly 50,000,000,000 surplus in the state budget.

  2. C.L. says:

    I don’t know, Manny. I’d have to have purchased about $143,000 worth of (HTX) retail goods in 2023 for the sales taxes associated with same to be commensurate with my HCAD bill.

    And I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen. And I’m pretty sure Texas ain’t gonna cut the sales tax by any percentage.

    But I’m with you on the $32.7B budget surplus not being used for any resident relief in any fashion, shape, or form. Seems to me we’ve had a number of rainy days that’d fall under a rainy day fund expenditure.

  3. Pingback: Texas blog roundup for the week of June 17 | Off the Kuff

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