Op-Ed: Texas Has a Trove of Money But Districts Like CFISD Are Left to Struggle

Board President Scott Henry wrestling with the numbers.
Board President Scott Henry wrestling with the numbers. CFISD screenshot

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has consistently earned top marks for achievement and financial integrity for more than two decades. In spite of this stability of success, the district’s budget faces a staggering $138 million deficit. The situation in CFISD is not unique, as school districts across Texas grapple with funding shortfalls threatening the quality of education they can provide to students.

It is clear Governor Greg Abbott and the Republican-led Texas Legislature have fundamentally failed to lead effectively on this issue. In spite of the Texas Constitution's clear mandate, our state leaders have not been able to ensure an effective and efficient public education system. According to Texas Constitution Article 7, Section 1, the state is obligated to support and maintain free public schools, emphasizing the importance of a general diffusion of knowledge to preserve liberties and rights.

It’s unconscionable Texas currently sits on a surplus of billions of dollars, yet our public schools are left scrambling, struggling to survive. There is no excuse for the dire financial straits facing districts like CFISD, with an unspent budget of $5 billion allocated for public schools and a projected surplus set to grow even further. Funding for education is available; what’s lacking is political will.

There are dire consequences to this neglect. CFISD plans to cut 50 librarian positions, which will undoubtedly affect the quality of education for its students. Librarians losing their jobs, coupled with ongoing funding gaps in special education and unfunded safety mandates, will have repercussions for our communities affecting not only our students, but also our economy in the future.
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The General Fund gap.
There are alarming statistics highlighting Texas’ sorry state of education funding. Our state ranks among the bottom 10 for education spending, with 9 out of 10 students attending underfunded schools. Teachers are being denied equitable compensation despite their valuable contributions, with Governor Abbott holding teacher pay hostage so he can advance his voucher scheme. It's no wonder 70 percent of educators have considered leaving the profession in the past year, and 75 percent report experiencing burnout.

The recent Texas primaries have resulted in a Texas House with more voucher supporters, making it more important than ever to oppose Abbott’s school voucher scam. Public schools are at risk of losing much-needed funds as a result of this scheme, further exacerbating the funding crisis already affecting districts like CFISD. This is not just a policy issue; it's a direct attack on the very fabric of public education, undermining the principle of equal opportunity for all students regardless of their socioeconomic background.

I know firsthand the power of quality education as a graduate of CFISD. As an elementary, middle, and high school graduate in this district, it was what fueled me. And now, other students may not have the ability to live the experience I once had. In these times, more than ever, it’s imperative our elected officials be held accountable and act. Governor Abbott should call for a special session to clean up this Texas-sized mess he and his friends in leadership created by not fully funding our public schools. The future of our children and the prosperity of our state depend on it.

This November, education and the future of our children will be on the ballot. Rather than stand by and watch as our leaders fail to fulfill their constitutional obligation to fund public education adequately, we must mobilize, show up at the polls, and hold them accountable. Let’s ensure every Texas child receives a quality education, and demand action from Governor Abbott and the Texas legislature. The future of our children rests with our votes at the ballot box, and we cannot afford to fail them.

Odus Evbagharu, current CFISD resident and graduate, is the former Chief of Staff to State Rep. Jon Rosenthal and former Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.
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