House members get their two cents in on education funding

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, February 16, 2013

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State Rep. Jim Pitts, chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, stood at the podium Monday afternoon and listened.

But he had no answers.

The district court has ruled the state’s funding system for public education unconstitutional – again – but the appeals court will still have its say, and it will likely be March or after before legislators can approach education funding with confidence.

We were only in the Chamber a few minutes, but that was long enough to hear two key House members make their points.

“Everybody here should want a long-term solution, not just a Band-Aid,” Rep. Jim Keffer of Granbury said. “What you have to figure out is, how do you go forward with a plan that’s going to bring fairness and equity, and pass muster with the courts, while making sure our school districts are funded – and funded with a mandate so we can educate our children?”

Keffer cautioned against trying to put the committee “in a box” on funding. He urged Pitts to “go in a judicious manner – have some vision.”

But State Rep. Donna Howard of Austin said there are two different issues at work in the education funding debate.

“I really want to clarify that,” she told Pitts and the rest of the House. “The short-term funding issue and the long-term funding issue are separate.

“I’m not talking about fixing the system, but restoring some funds.”

Howard urged the House to reinstate funding that was cut two years ago from the public education system – cuts that contributed strongly to the judge’s ruling that the system is unconstitutional.

“At least part of the reason we have additional funds is because of our underfunding in the last session of Medicaid and education,” she said. “We need to put at least some of that back.”

The issue of underfunded Texas public schools, in addition to over-testing students, will be protested at various advocacies, including the Texas PTA Rally Day Feb. 21 and Save Texas Schools March and Rally Saturday, Feb. 23.

The latter issue was addressed during a round-table discussion with superintendents of five of the state’s top schools’ superintendents, including Karen Rue of Northwest ISD, Feb. 13. Birdville ISD Superintendent Darrell Brown, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Superintendent Robin Ryan and Keller ISD Superintendent Randy Reid discussed how high-stakes testing could crush post-secondary plans for Texas high school seniors and how it could lead to an increase in the dropout rate.

Read more in an upcoming edition of the Messenger.

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