Mention a budget estimate that’s about 12 percent higher than the last time state lawmakers met, and it’s not hard to get reaction from those lobbying for a cause. And arguably the biggest cause to confront lawmakers this two-year budget cycle is the future of public education funding.

The day before the 83rd Legislative Session convenes Tuesday at noon, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, representing more than 50,000 teachers, believes the funding cuts of the past session should be fixed thanks to the fiscal conditions of an estimated $101.4 billion available this biennium, announced by Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday.

“If the legislature was willing to tap into the Rainy Day Fund in a major way, it could restore the cuts made to public education last time,” Lonnie Hollingsworth Jr., TCTA’s director of legal services and governmental relations, said. “Unfortunately, no one is really talking about that.”

The comptroller indicated there’s currently about $8 billion dollars in the Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account. If left untouched, that figure is estimated to climb to about $12 billion by the end of the next budget cycle.

Another issue the TCTA is monitoring is school choice. That includes the proposed idea of lifting the cap on charter schools, and the possibility of someone introducing a voucher plan.

“The problem with charters is they need to be vetted,” Hollingsworth said. “There needs to be someone at the state level to make sure that the entities that are going to be operating those charters are going to do a good job.”

Hollingsworth added that with cuts to the Texas Education Agency itself, that oversight may be impacted.

As for any voucher plan that might be introduced, Hollingsworth said the cost would either come out of the state’s overall budget, or directly out of the budget for Texas public schools.

Newly-appointed Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick indicated late last year that he preferred to hear directly from teachers rather than from teachers groups. Patrick argued the two often contradict each other on this issue. Patrick at the time, also alluded to the idea of a “teacher’s choice” plan that could be unveiled this session, but did not go into details.