In the midst of some pretty dramatic play dueling, I heard my 4 year old yell, “Stop dying!” at his older brother who lay sprawled on the ground with his tongue dramatically jutting out of his mouth. “Well, then stop killing me!” his older brother retorted.
I imagine this must be how Texas schools and public service providers feel right about now. The sword-wielder in this case would be the many members of the Texas legislature who like to pretend they can slash without consequences.
What Texas spends on children and families is leaner than lean—it’s emaciated. During the legislative session, the people who represent our under-resourced agencies, the ones that serve kids and families, sit before legislators in hearings. There, lawmakers often put them through the ringer for not meeting their missions or falling short in delivering what families need. “Stop dying!” shout our legislators. The agency leaders, though, often mindful of the need to be in legislators’ good graces seldom respond by putting blame where it should fall. Still, they would be justified to pipe up with a “Well, then stop killing me!”
By now, Texans feel the effects of last year’s dramatic budget cuts. You may notice your school has fewer teachers, or a beloved program isn’t offered on campus this year. Perhaps you have a friend with a little one in need of specialized early interventions the family no longer can receive. Maybe you’ve seen news coverage of the 270,000 low-income women losing access to cancer screenings and/or family planning services here in Texas. As you look around and see how this vague thing called the budget takes form, it’s worth remembering: real policy impacts real lives.
These are tough economic times, and Texas families are feeling the pinch. This past session our state legislature had the option to raise revenue by looking at closing loopholes and raising industry fees and business taxes, or cutting programs to Texas families already in need. Too many in our Legislature and state leadership took raising revenue off the table and chose the latter. The next time you are angered by potholed highways or crumbling schools or strained hospital emergency rooms, don’t resent the services for deteriorating. Shift your focus instead to who is killing them.
Here are a few ways you can respond to what you see:
- Austin musician Marcia Ball has organized “seeing red” protests in front of the Capitol at Congress and 11th Street in response to the defunding of women’s health services. Come out the next two Tuesdays, March 13 and March 20, between noon and 2:00 PM, and wear red to join the protests.
- Save Texas Schools is holding a rally on March 24 at the Capitol for Texas families.
- The Texas budget had a big effect on not just school-going kids but littler ones, as well. An April 12 event from Texans Care for Children and the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition will examine the state of early care in the wake of the cuts. Save the date, and we’ll let you know when online registration is available.
- Are you registered to vote at your current address? April 30th is the cutoff to register to have your vote count in the May 25 primaries.
Written by: Eileen Garcia