Since December 2022, when the news of the record-breaking $27 billion (now sitting at 33 billion) state surplus broke, statesmen and stateswomen from all the political spectrum shared their thoughts on how to alleviate the state from the extra money.
From funding public education to investing in road and highway infrastructure to property tax relief to fixing the state’s highly critiqued power grid system, there’s no shortage of ideas floating around. And it’s not just lawmakers that are dropping suggestions.
Two of the most campaigned ideas involve property tax relief, championed by Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick are education funding. With different priorities in mind, both Texas universities and teacher unions are going after increasing the funding in education.
According to the Texas Standard, the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), the state’s biggest teacher union, is advocating for better funding for schools, keeping educators and staff salaries in mind for a sector facing widespread shortages.
“We know that we have representatives on either side that are supportive of our public schools, especially in our rural communities, where they have seen school districts have to be really creative into ensuring that they have teachers in front of students, ensuring that they have the programs that need the funding,” Ovidia Molina, TSTA president, told the Texas Standard.
As reported by The Texas Tribune, in December when the first estimates of the state’s surplus were being discussed, chancellors from six Texas universities on their part sent a letter to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman and House Finance Committee Chair Greg Bonnen. They were asking for more funding for employee health insurance, regional public universities and the Hazlewood Legacy Program that provides free tuition for military veterans and their families.
The letter was signed by James Milliken of the University of Texas System, John Sharp of the Texas A&M University System, Renu Khator of the University of Houston System, Michael R. Williams of the University of North Texas System, Tedd Mitchell of the Texas Tech University System and Brian McCall of the Texas State University System.
In exchange for the nearly $1 billion investment the Texas university system is asking from the state, these chancellors are offering to freeze tuition fees for all undergraduate students for the next two academic years.