From Dallas Morning News:

Cutting Texas education spending poses economic risks, business leaders say

Sometimes the business community rails against government spending. But recently, some Texas business leaders have been railing against spending cuts.

Their target: a planned $4 billion reduction in school funding over the next two years, which is backed by Republican majorities in the Legislature.

“It doesn’t take a CEO to know that if something is important to your future, you invest in it,” said Ed Whitacre, former chief executive of AT&T and General Motors, in a television ad for an education advocacy group called Raise Your Hand Texas.

“Now the state Legislature wants to further cut educational spending,” he said, even though Texas already ranks near the bottom in spending per student among the 50 states.

The tension is heating up as a legislative special session began this week with a focus on school funding. Lawmakers who voted for the budget plan say spending reductions are necessary amid revenue shortfalls.

Some private-sector executives applaud the drive to rein in education spending if that’s what it takes to balance the budget.

“The clients we service, when they look at education, they don’t necessarily look at spending more or spending less,” said John Boyd, a corporate site selection consultant in Princeton, N.J. “They’re looking at re-engineering our education system and doing more with less. They’re more concerned about the fiscal integrity of the state. Can the state pay its bills?”

But business leaders such as James Oberwetter, president of the Dallas Regional Chamber, warn that shortchanging education spending could undermine the state’s ability to compete for jobs and investment.

He argues that lawmakers should avoid skimping on school funding even if it means tapping the savings in the state’s rainy day fund.

“Business is growing concerned about the future of a quality workforce as it sees education spending being reduced,” said Oberwetter, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George W. Bush and former adviser to Dallas oilman Ray Hunt.