Texas State Legislature and Governor want to "Save Money" and Cut Education

Here is an open letter to all of the Senators and Representatives of the Texas State Legislature who are considering a new budget for 2011-2012 that would cut funding of education STATEWIDE. In large school districts, like Houston ISD where I teach guitar and Multimedia, this would mean a drop in 15 to 20 per cent of funding, likely resulting in reduction of staff, faculty and other important programs.

From: Edward Grigassy
Bellaire High School,
Bellaire, Texas (Houston I.S.D.)

Dear State Senator or Representative,

It has come to my attention that the current Texas State Legislature is debating a new budget that would severly cut funding to education and school districts throughout the state of Texas. As an instructor at Bellaire High School, in the Houston Independent School District, this would impact hundreds of staff, faculty colleagues, students and parents that I personally work with, either directly or indirectly, on a daily basis.

According to Houston ISD's News reports:

“The first draft of a Texas budget for the next two years would slash public school funding by more than $9 billion. This represents the worst budget crisis for Texas since World War II, and comes at a time when Texas schools are being asked to educate an additional 84,000 students each year. For the Houston Independent School District, such a deep cut would mean the loss of $202 million to $348 million in yearly funding, or a 15-20 percent budget cut.”

HISD also predicts “that fine arts programs, sports teams and anything else that is not related to teaching core subjects such as reading, math, science and social studies would be on the chopping block as principals decide how to spend their limited funds.”

Other estimates by HISD have mentioned having to fire one-third or more of all teachers in the district. Can you imagine how overloaded the public school system of a major city like Houston would be with only two-thirds or less of current teachers and even more students to teach than in previous years? (Student numbers are expected to rise next year as they have for many consecutive years past).

In a recent State of the State address our governor, Rick Perry, who recently ran on a campaign of the “supposed” stability of our state's economy – as compared to the rest of the country – vowed “we must protect” and “preserve the Rainy Day Fund,” which has between $9 - 10 billion available for state expenditures. (Speech given Feb. 8, 2011).

As an instructor in Fine Arts and as a constituent of the area of Texas that you represent, I, therefore URGE you to RECONSIDER such severe budget cuts to education throughout the state. In addition, if no additional new funding is available for the proposed 2011-2012 budget, I URGE you to ASK FOR FUNDS from the Rainy Day Fund. I am certain only a fraction of the fund would be necessary to maintain a budget that saves thousands of jobs and helps to ensure a stable, appropriate education for the millions of children enrolled in Texas public schools.

As an example of the kind of quality programs that are in jeopardy due to these proposed budget cuts, I offer to you one example of an event we are sponsoring at Bellaire High School where I am a Guitar instructor (at our school, guitar class is a state-mandated Fine Arts elective that nearly 300 students enroll in each year). We are hosting the 2011 First Annual Houston ISD Guitar Festival which brings together guitar students and teachers from guitar programs at 8 area elementary schools, 6 area middle schools, as well as our high school program. We will be serving almost 300 students at this festival, inspiring them through guest artist performances, teaching through expert-led rehearsals and workshops, and giving each student the rewarding feeling of accomplishment through their performance on the main stage for an audience of proud parents, friends and supporters. Enclosed you will find an invitation to this festival.

Without funding from the state, many of the participating guitar programs are in jeopardy. Students at every age love learning to play music, and in this case, the guitar.

Fine Arts education has been proven conclusively to raise test scores in other areas, increase student motivation and involvement in their studies and to provide an increased sense of community and positive identity with their peers and instructors, thus enriching their overall academic experience. I can't tell you how many students I have taught over the years that have said how much they appreciated guitar class, some even mentioned they would have dropped out of high school if not for their favorite class, guitar. If the Fine Arts get cut in the school districts throughout the state, reason dictates that test scores will plummet, drop-out rates will increase, and overall academic excellence will decline.

Please don't place more value on dollars than on actual people, siding with money and vested interests over students who want to learn and achieve great things here in Texas, the state of their residency. By investing in students you are investing in the future of Texas, and in my opinion, the education of our young people is something you cannot afford to sabotage without serious consequences for our collective society.

Thus in summation, I ask that you listen to the arguments presented to you by thousands of teachers, parents, school district leaders and community members throughout Texas, and re-consider designing our state's budget with basic allowances for education. It is an crucial time in the history of our state, and this decision is an important opportunity for you to be a HERO to millions of educators and students who need your help right now for this basic human need: the right to a quality education. Please don't be a villian and snatch away the very classes that are your son's, daughter's or grandchildren's favorite interest and their deepest passion!

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my arguments, I hope you will think about the many educators, administrators and students who will be affected by your upcoming decisions.

Sincerely yours,

Mr. Edward Grigassy
B.A. Music (UT Austin 1996), M.M. Guitar (NE Conservatory 1998)
Instructor, Bellaire High School
5100 Maple St.
Bellaire, Texas 77401

TEXAS RESIDENTS: Please help!! Call or send a similar letter to your representatives and to the Texas governor, feel free to use any or none of my text above.

Who represents you? Texas residents click here.

And now the good news that the 2010-2011 Texas and HISD budget made possible:

The Houston Independent School District
Elementary and Secondary Curriculum,
Instruction, and Assessment
Fine Arts Departments

Invite you to the
February 26, 2011
11:00 am – 5:30 pm
Bellaire High School Auditorium
5100 Maple Street
Bellaire, Texas 77401
Corner of South Rice and Maple Street
(Two Blocks North of South Rice Street and Beechnut Street)

Check-in / Registration: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm noon
Opening presentation: 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm (Open to the public)
Workshops (classrooms): 12:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Snacks / Break: 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Final Concert: 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm (Open to the public)

Hosts and Co-directors
Mr. Edward Grigassy, Ms. Amy McIntyre, Mr. Mark Moore
Presented by the Guitar Program at Bellaire High School
In Collaboration with the Houston Independent School District

Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s),
Congratulations! Your student has been selected to participate in this year's First Annual Houston I.S.D. Guitar Festival, a gathering of guitar students in guitar programs from Elementary, Middle and High Schools from around the district.

The festival is on February 26 at Bellaire High School. We invite parents/guardians to bring their students to registration and attend our opening presentation from 12noon to 12:30pm. Students will then participate in workshops and fun music activities from 12:30am until 3:30pm. During the workshop section of the festival, guitar teachers (and qualified chaperones) will monitor students.
At 4:00pm, family members, students, fellow teachers, and guests return for the "Festival Concert Finale" featuring all of the HISD guitar program student participants. In order to motivate your student, attendance of family and supporters at the finale concert is highly encouraged. The concert is free and open to the public!

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you at the festival!