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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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2011 education budget cuts prompts ‘Texas Promise’ documentary

Texas cut $5.4 billion dollars from the state education budget in 2011 — a move that affected school districts across the state and whose ramifications will be explored by a documentary screening Thursday.
“The Texas Promise,” shown by MSC Center of Mexican-American Culture, follows the 83rd legislative session after budget cuts withheld $5.4 billion from Texas public education, and hopes to show the effects of withdrawing education investment. The documentary first premiered in 2014’s Austin Film Festival and brings forward the relationship between capital investment from state government and public education, the consequences of eliminating funding and the resulting outcry of school districts, students and families as they adjust to lower budget effects.
“I think it’s good to show some sort of impactful film,” said Marissa Salazar, education director for MSC CAMAC. “I guess the main thing is for it to have an impact on its audience members in a way that encourages them to do something within their own lives.”
Oscar winner Vanessa Roth’s documentary highlights the Rio Grande Valley and Houston, but involves individuals from across Texas, such as principals and pastors. The film also follows biomedical sciences sophomore Jennifer Gonzalez, a child of migrant workers, through her senior year of high school in RGV to California where her parents worked temporarily as migrant workers.
“I was already over there and they had asked if they could see what my family did and all this stuff to kind of get a better perspective of what my education since like, I guess for me as a first generation student it was kind of a big deal for me, and they knew I valued my academic career,” Gonzalez said.
When Texas lost the $5.4 billion from its public education, Roth said she decided it was time to document the effects and battles over funding during the 2013 legislature.
“So when I saw that Texas had cut so much out of their education budget — it cut Pre-K, Special Ed kinds of services, after school tutoring and English language learning resources for kids — when I saw that happening I thought it was a really important thing to look at about how this policy was being made and why and who was supporting it and the impacts and effects that it had,” Roth said.
In 2014, Texas school districts won a court case against the state on funding for public education. The decision was appealed however, and now heads to the Texas Supreme Court. Roth said only part of the funds had been restored and that Texas had not brought funding back to a level that would be considered constitutional.
Gonzalez said funding cuts can have grave effects on a community, ranging from shortening janitorial staff and laying off educators to fewer educational trips.
“So I would say a lot of students were affected in the sense that teachers couldn’t keep their jobs anymore because schools couldn’t afford it — they couldn’t receive that one on one attention,” Gonzalez said.
Salazar, whose mother is a bilingual teacher in a lower economic public school, explained how a lack of funding — and the standardized exams that follow — has a negative impact on a child’s education and a teacher’s performance.
“That’s their only goal,” Salazar said. “And as a teacher you have to stick with that or you’ll get fired. So, you know it takes away so much of the creativity and so much of the heart from teaching, because it’s so hard to follow such a strict rubric. And it doesn’t give you a lot of room for creativity, as a teacher or as a student.”
Salazar and Gonzalez said Texas A&M students attending the screening will leave with more knowledge and inspiration than what they arrived with.
“I think a lot of students also, other than not being aware of this problem, don’t realize, until they hear about this issue, how lucky they are, to get here to college which isn’t an option for a lot of students, especially those that didn’t even have guidance counselors to help them know how apply,” Salazar said.
The documentary screening of “The Texas Promise” will occur Thursday from 6:30-10 p.m. in Rudder 601 followed by a question and answer panel with Vanessa Roth and Jennifer Gonzalez. Admission is free.

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