HISD parents, teachers to protest budget cuts in Austin

March 11, 2011 4:53:50 PM PST
Houston Independent School District parents, students and teachers were packing up Friday evening for an early morning road trip to the Texas State Capitol for one of the largest marches for education in recent memory. Some coordinators we talked to hope to bring attention to the problems potential cuts would bring to public education in Texas.

They are loading up signs, boxes of T-shirts and plenty of frustration with Texas legislators who are preparing to slash public school budgets by more that $9 billion.

"It's going to ruin our public school system," said Nancy Lomax, of Parents for Public Schools. "We are going to have larger class sizes."

They are taking their fight to the Texas State Capitol Saturday for a massive march. More than 80 parents and teachers were signed up.

"We are talking about enormously crowded classrooms," HISD parent Laura Lomax said. "We are talking about potenitally losing programs like art, music (and) P.E."

Texas already ranks near the bottom in spending on education and was 43rd in the U.S. in 2008, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Spending on Texas students will drop even further if Texas legislators approve the cuts.

Some estimates put about 100,000 teaching jobs in the line of fire across the state and -- for the ones left -- a much larger work load.

Lomax is a former high school teacher and her daughter teaches fourth grade.

"It will be a horrible burden on our teachers," she said. "(My daughter) works at least 60 hours a week and to assume that dumping 50 percent more students into her classroom is not going to affect her life is ridiculous."

The march in Austin is expected to draw thousands of parents, students and teachers from around the state. Besides the cuts, protesters want parents to understand that it's imperative to lobby your local state representative or state senator on the proposed cuts.

"It is the state and people need to be focused on the state. The budget cuts are coming from the state deficit and it's trickling down to the school districts," Mai Lynn Womack said.

So at 7am Saturday, their three rented HISD buses leave Houston, hoping to stop cuts to Texas public schools.

"I think this is a time when teacher jobs are really difficult, really challenging, and we need to be behind our teachers, letting them know they are doing the most valuable jobs in our communites."

The march begins on 12th St. and Trinity -- one block from the Capitol building -- and runs from 12pm to 2pm on the south steps.