Fort Worth Independent School District says it will cut staff members because of its budget crunch. Dallas ISD is ending some high school programs. Plano ISD is conducting a study which “may lead to restructuring or consolidating schools to better serve students,” the district says.

“No one cause is to blame, although the state legislature not providing addition per pupil funding while mandating new security measures did not help, districts said,” WFAA reports. “Declining enrollment, which affects funding the districts receive on a per student basis and pandemic-era federal funding running out have affected district’s bottom lines as well.”

Yet the lawmakers who torpedoed a funding bill because it would have allowed parents some freedom to choose their children’s schools did so at the education establishment’s request—and now the districts are pleading poverty.

But are they really in such financial straits? The Dallas Morning News thinks so.

“Inadequate state funding isn’t the only culprit for Texas public schools’ financial woes,” the newspaper editorialized. “The expiration of federal pandemic-era aid and falling enrollment numbers have also contributed. But it’s shameful that political maneuvering contributed to these local shortfalls in a year where the state had a historic budget surplus.”

But DISD has long had money trouble—and not from having too little of it.

As The Dallas Express notes, “DISD has had a troubled history in its capital improvement and procurement departments, with longstanding allegations of waste and potential fraud connected to district construction projects.” And a former DISD internal auditor and investigator is now suing the district under whistleblower laws; she contends she was fired for finding and pointing out financial mismanagement and attendance fraud at DISD schools.

Dallas ISD is currently paying Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde a base salary of $338,000 per year, plus benefits. She’s not the highest paid superintendent in Texas (that honor goes to Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, which pays its super more than $500,000—and yes, it’s pleading poverty, too).

Yet she’s presiding over a shrinking district that is losing students—even without school choice. We warned years ago that Dallas ISD was starting to see a decline in student enrollment. That has only accelerated the district’s decline. That’s amazing when you realize how many new Texans arrive every day—more than 1,200. It seems the rest of the world is choosing Texas, but not Texas urban school districts.

For its part, Fort Worth ISD is also hemorrhaging students. According to the Star-Telegram, enrollment “declined from 87,233 students in 2016 to 72,783 students in 2023 — a drop of about 17%.” The district is now spending $2 million to study what to do about it.

But district officials are doing so from their newly remodeled $40 million district headquarters. The project was approved at $37 million, but has since exceeded that sum (though FWISD still claims it’s “under budget”). Its superintendent is paid a base salary of $337,414.

The district also has a spending problem—as seen in its purchase of a $2.6 million sex education program that was later dropped by the district.

Here’s the truth: The Legislature did, in fact, increase public school funding—to the tune of over $6 billion dollars.

But, even more than that, the Legislature also attempted to pass a bill that would have allocated an additional $7 billion—some of it marked specifically for teacher pay raises—towards public education.

And yet, the parent empowerment opponents killed that bill. The districts now crying for funding said they’d never compromise to get it.

“We’re not interested in compromising for vouchers to gain school funding,” Texas Association of School Administrators Vice President and Whitehouse ISD superintendent Christopher Moran said last year. “This is a hill that we’re willing to die on.”

Are they?

The Dallas Morning News claims that “Texas students are paying the price for the voucher fight.” That’s true enough—but let’s be clear which side is forcing the issue. It’s not the parents, who only want to be able to do what’s best for their children. And it’s not the Republican-led Legislature; the funding was teed up and ready to go.

School superintendents, particularly in the Dallas area, have said they’d rather do with less funding, as long as no funding at all goes to parent empowerment.

Fine. But their financial woes aren’t the fault of lawmakers. The problem is much, much closer to home.