Hundreds gathered at the Capitol on Saturday morning to protest state legislation and budget cuts that would favor private schools by decreasing funding for public schools.
Students, teachers and parents at the Save Texas Schools rally urged the state Legislature to better fund public schools.
Sam Cervantes, government and communications sophomore, said his low-income family who migrated from Mexico could only afford public education.
“When (my mother) dropped me off at school, she said education was all that she could give me,” Cervantes said. “A college education is a key — it is a paramount catalyst to break the cycle of poverty.”
The rally comes two days after the Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow parents to use state money to pay for private and parochial school tuition. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he supported this idea of school choice, where parents may pick alternatives to public school, such as private and charter schools, and use state money through vouchers to pay for it.
Cervantes said the state should focus on public schools and the affordability of public schools, which helped him get into the University.
“I am proud to say I am undocumented and Latino and attending one of the best universities in the nation,” Cervantes said.
Social work freshman Megan Perrin said her parents both taught in public schools, and based on their salaries, public school was the only affordable option. Perrin said her high school’s Advanced Placement program of college level courses prepared her for UT.
“I took a lot of AP courses, and so it was a great transition,” Perrin said. “I think it was a great quality of education. I’m very proud of the teachers that we had.”
Participants booed at a volunteer dressed as Robin Hood, who represented the state’s recapture system. The “Robin Hood” system takes money from districts the state deems wealthy and redistributes it among poorer districts.
State Rep. Gina Hinojosa is a former AISD board president who now represents the UT area in the House.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the House of Representatives’ budget plan would fund $1.5 billion more than the Senate for public schools. Hinojosa said the state Senate should better fund schools instead of through districts and taxpayers.
“Our property tax money that has come is because of our increased property values,” Hinojosa said. “The Senate, though, has chosen to take that money and pad the rest of its budget and shortchange our public schools.”
Southwest High School senior Melissa Gunnoe will attend UT next year and came to the rally to support teachers like her mother. Gunnoe said her mother wanted her to be exposed to the diversity in public schools.
“She put me in a public school so I can learn from the environment that it gave me and help me become a better person,” Gunnoe said.
Melissa’s mother, Diana Gunnoe, said public schools deserve the funding instead of private ones.
“Our buildings are old, our books are old,” Diana Gunnoe said. “A lot of kids don’t have technology at home so we should have it for everyone in all of the classrooms. (And) give teachers a raise, a real raise, not just 1 percent or 2 percent.”