Society

RISD REPORT

Public school funding in Texas
Dr. Howell Wright

Texas legislators have taken a step toward restoring part of the $5.4 billion cut from public schools last session. Senate Bill 1 was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The budget bill includes an additional $1.4 billion in funding for public education. A similar bill passed the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Many in public education regard the developments as positive; the bills would return about $152,000/year (based on the October 2012 PEIMS submission) to Rockdale ISD from the funding that was lost in the last session. Unfortunately, the sequestration of 5-10% of federal funds the district receives would offset most of the returned state funding.

Caution should be used when understanding the language some legislators, especially those in the state’s top leadership positions, are using in regards to the Senate and House appropriations bills. They may use words like “an increase in state funding” or “we are giving more dollars to our schools this session.” Last session, the state reduced public education funding by $5.4 billion. Educators are appreciative of the current funding bills, but they are not increases to funding; they are partial returns of lost funds.

Think of it like this: would you consider it a raise if your employer cut your salary by $2000/year and then later gave you $500 more per year?

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced in January the state will have $101.4 billion to spend this biennium. Combs also projected an $11.8 billion Rainy Day Fund and $8.8 billion ending balance for the current budget year.

There is some indication on the House side they would like to come back within the next couple of months and possibly even return more money to public schools. There is not any plan to restore the entire $5.4 billion, but there is some hope that in the House this is a starting point, and they may actually come back and add some more to it.

I am very appreciative of many members of the House, especially Representative Farney, because they seem to be listening to parents, communities and educators regarding public school concerns. There are also several Senators that are willing to listen, including our own Dr. Charles Schwertner.

While the demands of education constantly change, the need to plan a solid financial future remains constant. As educators and communities recognize the shift in student populations, pursue stringent standards and manage budgets, the time and energy needed to plot a prudent financial course are constant challenges.

Please contact Senator Schwertner and Representative Farney with your thoughts and concerns about the state’s responsibility for public school funding or to express your views regarding excessive state assessments.

Rep. Farney: 512-463-0309, office no. EXT. E1.310.

Sen. Schwertner: 512-463- 0309, office no. EXT. E1.608, 979-776-0222 district no.


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