Category: Public Education

Re: Texas Comptroller’s 2020-2021 BRE

Earlier today, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released the state’s biennial revenue estimate. Based on projections for the state’s economy, Comptroller Hegar certified $119 billion in state funds available for the coming biennium and budget cycle. He noted that the number could shift some before the end of session.

 

Today’s revenue estimate shows that the Legislature should fund a significant, added investment in public education, which in turn would reduce pressure on property taxpayers.

 

While the Legislature must first deal with unpaid bills stemming from the current budget, today’s estimate, combined with the $15.4 billion projected balance in the Economic Stabilization Fund, demonstrates there are resources available to craft real solutions for Texans on a number of major issues.

 

Texas teachers deserve better pay and we need to address health care costs for current and retired educators. We need to make college more affordable and accessible if we are to have the skilled workforce our state’s economy demands. Our state’s Medicaid managed care system must be improved to better serve medically fragile Texans. The recovery from Hurricane Harvey requires our attention, as well. These are just a few examples of important issues that must be addressed this session.

 

The revenue estimate provides a blueprint of what is possible. It’s up to the Legislature to build a budget that reflects our values and commits the resources and ingenuity of our great state to achieving real solutions for each and every Texan. That’s what Texas House Democrats will be fighting for.

Texas Education Agency to roll out school ratings

On Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency will roll-out its first “A-F” ratings for every school district in the state of Texas. Campuses won’t receive a letter grade until 2019, but will receive a numeric score on a 0-100 scale.

The letter grades, which come out as students and families prepare to go back to school, will be issued at a time when Republicans in control of the Texas Legislature continue to underfund our local schools. Consider:

 

    1. Texas is relying more on more on rising property taxes to cover the state’s share of funding our students and local schools (Source: CPPP)

 

    1. TEA and the state of Texas need to find up to $3.2 billion to get our state’s special education services up to standards (Source: Houston Chronicle)

 

    1. Our retired teachers haven’t received a pay bump in over a decade, and Texas – which contributes less to its state pension fund than any other state – would need to identify $786 million annually in order to ensure our retired teachers get the support they deserve (Source: Austin American-Statesman)

 

I expect that Texas’ A-F ratings for school districts will stir up plenty of discussion about Texas’ local schools. In that conversation, we should remember what is possible — that Texas, one of the richest economies in the world, could and should be doing much more to invest in the future of our kids and our local schools.

Commentary: Schools need more funds to operate, not Patrick’s criticism

I am a parent, a small-business owner and a school board member at Lytle ISD. I am close to the operational challenges in my district. I can only assume that our state leaders don’t know the facts about school districts like mine; otherwise, they couldn’t possibly be pushing the legislation they promoted this session.

We are a small rural district with a population that’s 75 percent economically disadvantaged. Our property values are lower than many parts of the state, and we are on the low end of dollars allotted per student by the state. Even so, we are committed to engaging and sustained learning for our students rather than subjecting them to standardized test drill-and-kill preparation, like many schools. We have been recognized statewide for our academic achievements.

To continue reading this story go to the Austin American-Statesman.

Howard: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding (Op-ed)

Upon receiving their property tax notices, Texas homeowners seem ready to channel Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” by throwing open their windows and yelling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But at whom should that ire be directed?

Some wolves in sheep’s clothing at the Texas Capitol are pointing their fingers at your locally elected officials and pursuing legislation to tightly restrict cities. But don’t be fooled; it’s the wolves themselves who have driven up your property taxes.

To continue reading this story go to the Austin American-Statesman.

Franchise Tax Bill Could Be Disastrous

This headline from the Texas Tribune says it all: “Texas House votes to cut business tax that funds public schools.”

Last Thursday, Texas Republicans brought forward a bill that would eventually phase out the franchise tax. Built upon the idea of a fake surplus, the bill would count GR-dedicated funds as “extra” money, and use those calculations to create a total by which the state would cut the franchise tax. The Legislative Budget Board analysis found that the bill could create as much as a $3.5 billion hit to our state’s general revenue fund and, thus, our public schools in just a few years.

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School Finance & Bathroom Bills Show Contrasting Priorities

On Wednesday, April 19, the Texas House of Representatives will consider a very serious issue on the House floor, and a very made-up issue in a House committee.

The school finance bill that comes to the House floor on Wednesday marks the first time in a decade that the Texas Legislature has taken a proactive step towards fixing how we pay for our local public schools. Education is a right for every child, and we need to do more to make sure our students and teachers have the resources they need in the classroom. As it comes to the floor, the bill puts an additional $1.6 billion into our local schools, and makes some long-needed improvements into the formulas that put us on the path to reforming our school finance system.

After the debate on the House floor, the State Affairs Committee will meet to discuss thezombie bathroom bill — a piece of legislation that hurts everyone and just doesn’t seem to want to die. Despite outspoken opposition from Democrats, voters, and Texas businesses, there are some Republicans in the Legislature that think the best way for us to spend the last six weeks of session is to pass discriminatory laws that hurt our economy. The bathroom bill is a waste of time, and I hope the committee hearing is the last time we discuss it during session.