Texas Education

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Is school finance back on the table?

Posted by Texas Education on February 5, 2009

Sorry, to be a bit awol lately. There has been lots to rant and rave about, but I’ve been a bit under the weather, makes y0u kinda not want to do much. But, with the brisk weather, along with coughing less and feeling a bit better, onto more important things:

There is an article out of Austin By Kate Alexander from the AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

It usually takes a judge to compel Texas lawmakers to tackle the thorny issue of school finance reform.

But several key legislators say there is no reason to wait for a lawsuit to fix the well-known flaws in how Texas pays for its schools.

“I would like to get off that treadmill,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said Wednesday.
The aim will be to pass legislation that addresses the immediate problems and sets a course to remedy the long-term issues that often land the state in court, Ogden said.

Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, also backed the idea of addressing the fairness issues in the school finance system now.

Can it be, can it really be true???? Not to say I’ve given up hope, but I feel I’m running out of steam, in more ways than one. Beating your head up against the wall is not my way of encouraging, nor is it fun.

Heading into the current legislative session, education leaders, including Shapiro, had repeatedly said that a comprehensive school finance fix would probably not come until 2011.

But the winds have shifted because legislators everywhere are hearing that the full impact of the current system has hit home, said state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington.

Many school districts perhaps half, Education Commissioner Robert Scott estimated are relying on reserves to pay the bills because the current system has frozen per-student funding at 2006 levels, even as their costs increase.

Wow, I think they are finally “getting it!”

“That has created a sense of urgency,” Patrick said.
In 2006, lawmakers enacted a short-term school finance fix, in response to a court order, that ended up creating clear funding disparities, critics say. For example, the per-student funding in Williamson County ranges from $4,600 in the Granger district to almost $6,300 in the nearby Jarrell district.

Almost $1.9 billion in new education money was included in the base state budget for 2010-11, but it is contingent upon returning the state to a more equitable, formula-driven school finance system.

School finance expert Lynn Moak said that amount is not sufficient for a long-term solution to the fairness problems that dog Texas. But it is enough for a major first step, he said.

The specific details of how money will flow to school districts are still being hammered out. But education advocates say they are encouraged that change could come.

“They’re at least looking at the issue. That’s a big step forward,” said Wayne Pierce, executive director of the Equity Center, which represents school districts that have lower property values relative to their student enrollments.


One Response to “Is school finance back on the table?”

  1. […] Is school finance back on the table? […]

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