Ask senators to restore full funding for textbooks

The mental image of Texas school children struggling to read outdated language arts textbooks while students in other states pass them by in tests and in finding careers in the future global marketplace is a frightening one, made noticeably less so by Texas senators’ support of Senate Bill 1, legislation that would  restore funding for new reading and language arts textbooks.

But while calling your senators to congratulate them on passing SB 1, consider asking them to also talk to lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee, which proposes a 25 percent cut in new reading textooks and instructional materials under House Bill 4586.

Terry Abbott, chairman of Drive West Communications, a public relations firm with headquarters in Houston, formerly with the  Houston Independent School District Press Office and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education, recently issued a warning over the LinkedIn network about the proposed cuts in new reading and language arts textbooks, which he said will leave school districts far short of funds needed to pay for books and educational materials the state has already ordered.

It’s a story local Houston media has been reluctant to cover — and not because it lacks importance or urgency, Abbott said.

It’s been 10 years, at least, since new reading and language arts books have been purchased by the state.  New textbooks would have given approximately 4.5 milion of the state’s students at least seven years of equity in educational materials with students in other states.The Texas Constitution requires the state to use Available School Funds to provide free textbooks, but the Legislature has asked that money for instructional materials be provided only under contingency funding.  That means that that new English Language Arts and Reading instructional materials will be included ONLY IF the Available School Fund hits the $1.4 billion mark in stock market earnings, a formula State Rep.  Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has publicly predicted will leave about 5 million Texas students short changed.

A statewide survey showed that 73 percent of respondents wanted the state to fully fund reading and asked about the $47 billion education budget, which includes instructional material funding but makes the money dependent on how the Permanent School Fund performs on the stock market.

The House Appropriations Committee has agreed to authorize $347 million, or the total amount needed to cover continuing contracts under Proclamation 2010, but at the same time, reduced the budget for new reading instructional materials by 25 percent from the amount sought by the Texas Education Agency, from $547 million to $411 million.

Brittany Fish at Texas Curriculum, sent out a message Tuesday urging people to contact their senators today, first to congradulate them for including $895 million for the textbooks and for continuing contracts  in their budget, but to also ask for their help in getting the House to include funding in its version of SB 1 and to bring its HB 4586 supplemental appropriations bill’s 25 percent reduction in funding for reading and language arts back up to the level requested by TEA under Proclamation 2010.

“As you know, Texas is facing its most important textbook purchase in nearly a decade and it is vital that our school children have access to these new materials that will be funded in this session of the Legislature,” Fish said.

To locate the number for your senator to thank for fully supporting HB I – and to ask them to restore funding in HB 4586 — contact:

Senator Kip Averitt                                 (512) 463-0122

Senator John Carona                               (512) 463-0116

Senator Wendy Davis                              (512) 463-0110

Senator Robert Deuell                            (512) 463-0102

Senator Robert Duncan                          (512) 463-0128

Senator Rodney Ellis                                (512) 463-0113

Senator Kevin Eltife                                  (512) 463-0101

Senator Craig Estes                                    (512) 463-0130

Senator Troy Fraser                                  (512) 463-0124

Senator Mario Gallegos                            (512) 463-0106

Senator Chris Harris                                  ( 512) 463-0109

Senator Glenn Hegar                                   (512) 463-0118

Senator Juan Hinojosa                               (512) 463-0120

Senator Joan Huffman                                (512) 463-0117

Senator Mike Jackson                                  (512) 463-0111

Senator Eddie Lucio                                     (512) 463-0127

Senator Jane Nelson                                     (512) 463-0112

Senator Robert Nichols                               (512) 463-0103

Senator Steve Ogden                                     (512) 463-0105

Senator Dan Patrick                                       (512) 463-0107

Senator Kel Seliger                                          (512) 463-0131

Senator Florence Shapiro                            (512) 463-0108

Senator Eliot Shapleigh                                 (512) 463-0129

Senator Carlos Uresti                                     (512) 463-0119

Senator Leticia Van de Putte                      (512) 463-0126

Senator Kirk Watson                                      (512) 463-0114

Senator Jeff Wentworth                                (512) 463-0125

Senator Royce West                                        (512) 463-0123

Senator John Whitmire                                  (512) 463-0115

Senator Tommy Williams                              (512) 463-0104

Senator Judith Zaffirini                                   (512) 463-0121

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