Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: Special Ed: lawmakers prove to be slow learners .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Special Ed: lawmakers prove to be slow learners

School finance headed for another fall
Tax bill may fall short by half-billion, board says
Senate revises school plan in effort to save session

Well, the boys in Austin have mucked it up again. They’re no closer to a workable education and tax bill than they were three years ago, when gubna Rick Perry campaigned on a pledge to pass sweeping legislation that would provide both a good public education system and the means to pay for it while providing school tax relief. Now his re-election looms on the horizon with no rabbits to pull out of his hat, so the 79th ½ Texas Legislature sits in its second special session leaving its members scratching their heads and various other body parts.

The House bill, in its current form, would have provide property tax relief only to those whose annual income exceeds $100,000, while actually raising the tax burden of those who earned less, according to the Legislative Budget Board. But that’s not why the bill was killed. It was killed because Rep. Scott Hochburg, D-Houston successfully added an amendment that would allow for teacher pay raises, bilingual education funding, and tax relief in the form of a larger homestead exemption. For you non-Texans, the homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of your primary residence, thereby providing all homeowners the same break in school taxes, regardless of economic status.

So the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, led the charge to vote down the bill, which they did, 124-8.

Meanwhile, the Senate is attempting to salvage the education bill that failed last week. Legislators blame school officials for opposing the bill. So Senators will make sweeping changes in order to placate school superintendents, such as:

  • Not requiring a statewide school year start date
  • Not moving board member elections to November

Such heady issues are supposedly stalling the passage of an educational reform bill. Still in the bill are teacher pay raises, oversight of charter schools, and increased accountability. The Senate can’t really do anything about funding, because the Texas Constitution requires that any tax bills be initiated in the House, so Senators have to do something in the special session while waiting for the House to get itself in order.

Which will include finding a way to make up for the revenue shortfall created by reducing the well-to-do’s property taxes. Current plans are to raise the state sales tax by up to ¾% and tack another $1/pack tax on cigarettes, although the latter may net zero increase due to the people who will quit because they can’t afford the habit.

Also at issue is the "Robin Hood" system that’s currently in place, which basically makes the wealthier school districts share some of their tax receipts with poorer districts.

Texas is under court pressure to change its $33 billion school funding system, known to some as Robin Hood because it takes money from wealthy districts and shares it with poorer ones.

A state district judge last year declared the system inadequate and unconstitutional. The state appealed that decision to the Texas Supreme Court, which is expected to rule in the coming weeks and months.

This will not likely happen before the second special session’s deadline of August 19, so it’s unlikely that the House will pass meaningful legislation that will radically reform the education system in Texas. At best, we’ll band-aid the problem once again, and the rhetoric will fly back and forth in the next election cycle. Already the gubna is backpedaling in his usual incoherent way.

While signing a bill establishing new renewable energy goals for Texas, Perry was asked about rumors that legislators want to give up on school finance reform and property tax relief and just pass legislation to pay for textbooks and a teacher pay raise before adjourning.

Perry indicated he might be willing to take such a better-than-nothing bill.

"If you can get half a loaf versus a full loaf, you generally take a slice or two, if you can get that," Perry said. "We understand how this process plays out here."

And of course, if they pass a half-baked bill, then they’re free to pass:

  • the judicial pay bill, which is on hold until the education bill is passed and will provide in increase in lawmaker’s pensions,
  • a giveaway to SBC in the form of a state-wide video distribution franchise,
  • the eminent domain bill - in order to show their support of homeowners, while insuring that the new sports stadium in Dallass can condemn homeowners properties and move forward with construction.

And then they can claim another victory and get on with their vacations. After all:

GOP House Speaker Tom Craddick said the session isn't necessarily doomed, but he did say legislators — who have spent two regular sessions and three special sessions tackling school finance — are tired.

"The members are just basically worn out voting on these different proposals. I don't know where we go from here," Craddick said.

I have a few suggestions. First, stop whining. You fought tooth and nail to get where you are, ostensibly to do some good. Start doing it, even if there are no perks involved and it cuts into your valuable golf season.

Then close the business tax loopholes that let both corporations and limited partnerships avoid the franchise tax, leaving a huge burden on small businesses. Even though Perry opposes this, he’ll be forced to compromise if he wants to have a chance at re-election.

Don’t rely so heavily on property tax relief. Regardless of the hype, only a few will benefit to any meaningful degree.

And buckle down and get to work coming up with the funds necessary to provide a quality education for ALL Texas students. We can't afford the alternative.


  • Excellent blog! I give it an A+ with a Gold Star!! I'll be creating a blog on nintendo revolution soon, in the meantime if you want to review my website on nintendo revolution uncensored, i'd really appreciate it!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:15 PM  

  • So many blogs and only 10 numbers to rate them. I'll have to give you a 10 because you have done a good job. Great Job,

    Free Access To More Information Abouttelus

    By Blogger St Louis Cardinals BUFF, at 1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home