July 21, 2005
The endless legislative summer continues

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Governor Perry has called another special session to deal with school finance.


The special session that Gov. Rick Perry called to fix the state's school finance system staggered to an end Wednesday with no education reforms, no property tax cuts and a heap of frustration among lawmakers who can't agree on how to address the state's largest political problem.

Technical questions and a filibuster by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, that began at 9:46 p.m. appeared to seal the fate of a major education bill in the Senate that would have increased spending on schools, awarded teacher raises and reduced the money that property-wealthy districts send property-poorer districts. And as of late Wednesday night, the House had taken no action on the measure.

[...]

Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, said House and Senate negotiators were so close to a deal that quick progress in the next special session is possible.

With a deal in hand and Brimer conceded it isn't a bill could be rammed through the Legislature in five days, he said. But if the Legislature starts with a blank sheet of paper or chooses to go through the full-fledged process of committee hearings and debate, Brimer said, two weeks to a full 30 days might be on the horizon.


Lovely. I'm sure this has been as much fun for you as it's been for me.

Let's pause for a moment to engage in something that actually is fun: the blame game.


A spokeswoman for House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said House negotiators had to hang tough during talks with the Senate because the tax-swap bill earlier this month passed the House by only one vote.

"The House is the harder chamber to pass the bill in," Alexis DeLee said.

Senate tax writers said Mr. Craddick, though never in the room with tax bill negotiators, was the main obstacle to reaching an agreement.

"It was just offer, counteroffer, offer, counteroffer," said Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, a certified public accountant who was one of the Senate's negotiators. "I don't think the speaker wants to vote on a tax bill this session."

Mr. Averitt added: "We thought we were making progress and making legitimate counteroffers. But we couldn't quite make [Mr. Craddick] happy. The overwhelming sentiment in the Capitol is the House doesn't want to vote on a tax bill because they can't pass one. The speaker may have been protecting his members."

Another Senate negotiator, Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, said of Mr. Craddick: "He just kept moving the target. He was looking to blame us. We just really saw it as a posturing."

Ms. DeLee replied: "That is not the case. We've been committed from the very beginning to getting [tax and school finance bills] done."

As for Mr. Averitt's suggestion that Mr. Craddick may have been protecting House members, she said: "The speaker knows what he can pass in the House. Every proposal that we gave them included both what we needed and what they needed to pass a bill."


What I want to know is this: What happens if the Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst triumvirate push a bill through the joint committee process, and it gets voted down by one or both chambers? Do they give up and send everyone home, or do they try the radical concept of taking a different approach, one that doesn't involve raising taxes on 90% of the population in order to give Highland Park a much-needed break?

(If you think I'm being unfair to Highland Park, look at the chart at the end of this story, and read Scott Hochberg's analysis as quoted by Greg.)

The call for the session is for today, and as I understand it they'll be in recess until Monday. After that, I expect more of the same. Do keep in mind that at least until the Texas Supreme Court makes a ruling on the school finance lawsuit, there's technically no need for the Lege to act at all, as the latter DMN story notes:


The House voted Wednesday to send Gov. Rick Perry a bill restoring the $33.6 billion education budget he vetoed when he called lawmakers into special session last month. The move had been intended to help force the House and Senate to reach a deal on school finance and property tax overhaul, but one of the few bills both chambers passed was to reauthorize the spending Mr. Perry cut. It's unclear whether Mr. Perry will sign the measure, but it passed both chambers with enough votes to override another veto. Also, provisions in state law allow for the money to be spent regardless, so schools are certain to open on time.

Just something to keep in mind.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack
Comments

To note, this 2nd special session (for now) has only been called for property tax relief. Seems the leadership's misguided priority of putting tax cuts for the wealthy over our school children has reached a height most couldn't imagine.

Posted by: Phillip Martin on July 21, 2005 9:59 AM

Do keep in mind that at least until the Texas Supreme Court makes a ruling on the school finance lawsuit, there's technically no need for the Lege to act at all....

Sure, but how in the world could they ignore the blog rage in the meantime about their lack of leadership coming from the Right blogosphere (Lone Star Times/Clout) and the Left blogosphere (you, countless others)? :)

Posted by: kevin whited on July 21, 2005 12:35 PM

Sure, but how in the world could they ignore the blog rage in the meantime about their lack of leadership coming from the Right blogosphere (Lone Star Times/Clout) and the Left blogosphere (you, countless others)? :)

They could always fall back on the old faithful "If we're being attacked from both sides, we must be doing something right".

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2005 1:47 PM

The Third Reich was attacked from both sides too.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on July 21, 2005 3:51 PM

In this post you state that HB 3 would raise taxes on 90% of the population. You must mean the individual population, because HB 3 would close loopholes that would bring 80% of the corporations that now avoid franchise tax into the tax paying fold. The people of Highland Park might just pay more in property tax than most of the largest corporations in the US pay in Texas franchise tax.

C'mon everybody. Property tax relief = loophole closing and the House does not like to bite the hand that feeds it.

The laws to form these loophole were passed under Democratic leadership and we should see some small effort among the Ds to help fix a tax leak they help make.

Posted by: sstatetaxx on July 21, 2005 4:37 PM

Phillip Martin wrote above about the so-called:

" ... misguided priority of putting tax cuts for the wealthy over our school children..."


The facts:

1)Texas ranks second in the nation in total public education expenditures. We rank third in public education expenditures as a percent of the state budget.

The NEA surveyed education spending by state, and discovered that we are number 1 out of the 10 most populous states in total public school expenditures compared to personal income. The AFT did a national survey of COL-adjusted teacher pay, and found Texas ranked number 17.

Our total expenditures for Texas public school districts have increased %23 --- $7 billion --- since 1998. During the same period our total school enrollment has only increased by %7 and our state's personal income has only increased by %5.9.

2) %98 of Texas homeowners are not wealthy but are, rather, struggling blue collar/white collar/retired workers on SS and medicare, with a mortgage. A majority of Texas homeowners do not have children in the public school systems.

3) The Texas public education system does not serve our children, it serves education industry contractors and suppliers, education administrators, teacher unions,and district employees, in that order.

In fact, only 50 cents out of every dollar spent on K-12 public education in Texas actually
goes goes to classroom instruction.

3) Performance reviews conducted by the state have clearly shown that Texas public school districts just flat-out mismanage and waste 10-20 percent of their operating budgets every year.

This comes to $4.2 to $8.4 billion wasted each year.

Some examples of this include: hundreds of millions in yearly budget padding; $500,000 buy-outs of superintendent contracts; hirng of far too many adminstrators and administrator salaries in the $125,000 to $250,000 range; paying head coaches $80,000 a year while paying the most experienced teachers $50,000 a year; hundreds of million spent on textbook storage and distribution; mismanagement of district transportation sytems; and on and on and on.

Some of the most abusive micro-examples of waste and mismanangement include: use of district credit cards at topless bars; first class plane tickets, luxury hotel suites, concert tickets, and luncheons at 4 star restaurants during education association conventions; stolen student activity funds.

This does not include such expenditures as waste and mismangement in facilities maintenance, repair, design and construction or the building of $20 million sports stadiums.


Posted by: ttyler5 on July 22, 2005 1:00 AM

ttyler5 wrote:
"In fact, only 50 cents out of every dollar spent on K-12 public education in Texas actually
goes goes to classroom instruction."

This is most certainly not a "fact", because it is dead wrong. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas spends 60 cents (59.7%) out of every dollar on classroom instruction:

Total Operating Expenditures 25,871,746,332 100.00%
Instruction 15,444,497,772 59.70%
Instructional Res Media 498,139,926 1.93%
Curriculum/Staff Develop 263,108,952 1.02%
Instructional Leadership 342,461,615 1.32%
School Leadership 1,666,133,537 6.44%
Guidance Counseling Svcs 886,811,200 3.43%
Social Work Services 58,093,675 0.22%
Health Services 270,516,953 1.05%
Transportation 793,899,553 3.07%
Food 215,793,045 0.83%
Cocurricular 717,978,081 2.78%
General Administration 1,081,018,676 4.18%
Plant Maint/Operation 3,063,975,079 11.84%
Security/Monitoring 194,405,828 0.75%
Data Processing Services 374,797,133 1.45%

Now, as for the remainder of the expenditures, perhaps you might feel that Security, Plant Maintenance, Food, Transportation, Health, and Counseling are not legitimate things for schools to spend money on. If so, we'd all like to hear how schools could function as society demands without these things.

I took a look at the NEA report on education statistics that was cited above. Here's some stats he didn't see fit to include:
Texas is:
#2 in school-age population
#1 in number of school districts
#2 in public school enrollment
#32 in public school teacher salary
#3 in personal income
#27 in per capita personal income
#44 in personal income per student
#38 in per capita general revenue of state & local government
#36 in public school revenue per student ($8,208)
#37 in % of revenue for public schools from state government
#14 in % of revenue for public schools from local government
#50 in PER CAPITA GENERAL EXPENDITURES OF
STATE GOVERNMENTS FOR ALL FUNCTIONS

We have a really cheap-ass state government, folks. It's no wonder we have a crappy public school system.


Posted by: Locutor on July 22, 2005 1:01 PM

Locutor, we'll skip the fact that you have not yet provided a justification for such expenditures noted above as hundreds of millions of dollars in budget padding ---( BTW, the most common budget-padding areas used by Texas school districts are food services and maintenance, some of your "legitimate" :^D :^D :^D :^D expenditure items listed above ) --- $20 million football stadiums, $100,000 football coaches, luxury hotel suites, or the use of school district credit cards for such educational items as an evening's lap dance at the local titty bar.

We'll skip the fact as well that the $25.8 billion figure that appears in the TEA table above is only part of what Texas actually spends on Texas public schools ( for example, the school districts in my immediate area have floated $1.5 billion in construction bonds in the last 5 years, a figure much larger than their combined yearly budgets for the same period.)

And we'll skip the fact that %59.7 spent on "instruction" is LOUSY, just as LOUSY as %50, and the figure should be more like %80.

We'll even skip, for a moment, the fact that you obviously have never sat down with CPA's and torn apart your local school district budget, utilizing such tools as the Open Records Act to acquire actual receipts and detailed expenditure reports that show you how the money is really being spent.

The figures you use above are from TEA, and that should have alarmed you to begin with.

Do you actually know what TEA is counting under that piece of Orwellian Newspeak it has listed in the table you cite above as "Instruction"?

Here's a look at Budget Functions 11 and 95, which are the functions TEA requires school districts to list under the rubric of "Instruction" and which give the inflated figure for "instruction" TEA gives above. If you read these and still believe that %59.7 of operating costs statewide are being spent on what I plainly termed, and by which term I meant "classroom instruction" as I very plainly and clearly wrote above, then I would say you are highly qualified to work for TEA.

Function 11 and 95, "Instruction":

Function 11, Salaries and related expenditures /expenses associated with:

Classroom teachers Teacher aides Classroom assistants Graders Staff working in the classroom on a dedicated basis Adult basic education teachers Substitute teachers (except for substitute teachers employed when teachers are attending staff development or in-service training, who are to be charged to Function 13)
Teachers that deliver instruction by television, satellite, etc. TI-IN services provided by education service centers Classes taught to students by education service centers
Special education instructional services, including speech, occupational and physical therapy Upkeep and repairs to instructional materials and equipment in the classroom
Instruction in health Field trips Band instruments purchased by the school district or donated by band boosters or other groups
Instructional computer labs, supplies, etc.
Testing materials for tests developed and administered by teachers Salaries for instruction, including that portion of the salary for the regular school day that is for teaching physical education (P.E. equivalent) courses for credit when athletic activities are being practiced or are taking place Pre/post employment physicals or drug testing for personnel classified in this function
Purchase of vehicles for instructional purposes, including driver education

Function 95: Payments from school districts in which a student resides to a Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (Use Expenditure Object Code 6223)

Your statement that "We have a really cheap-ass state government, folks. It's no wonder we have a crappy public school system" is not even remotely related to my argument, to wit, that we have an EXTREMELY mismanaged and wasteful public school system in Texas that spends most of the money we give it on anything BUT classroom education. Nothing you have stated above changes that fact in the least.

And as well, you seem not to have noticed at all that the NEA table very clearly shows that Texas does not have the per capita income level (#27 in the nation) to afford this kind of waste and mismangement in its public school system, especially when you go beyond the NEA table and discover that most Texans live from paycheck to paycheck, and that we have one of the highest rates of property seizures by school districts for inability to pay school property taxes in the United States.

But since when did the NEA -- or any other advocates for higher school taxes --- ever give a damn about waste, mismanagement and people being thrown out onto the streets when they can't afford to pay their school property taxes?

I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count.

Posted by: ttyler5 on July 23, 2005 2:16 AM

ttyler5 wrote:

"Locutor, we'll skip the fact that you have not yet provided a justification for such expenditures noted above as hundreds of millions of dollars in budget padding"

And just who went made you Ultimate Authority in What I Ought to Write? It's not a "fact", it is just a claim on your part, and an unjustified one at that. Why should I? You're the one making the ridiculous claims about state govt spending, not me.

" ---( BTW, the most common budget-padding areas used by Texas school districts are food services and maintenance, some of your "legitimate" :^D :^D :^D :^D expenditure items listed above )"

By all means, we're still waiting for you to produce some evidence of this "padding" as you call it. Short of that, yet another unsupported claim on your part.


" --- $20 million football stadiums, $100,000 football coaches, luxury hotel suites, or the use of school district credit cards for such educational items as an evening's lap dance at the local titty bar."

Damn, argue by anecdote much? Unless you are also claiming that EVERY school district in Texas does this sort of irresponsible crap. Look, every large organization of ANY kind is going to have some fraud, waste, and mismanagement. You're acting like you've discovered something new. Sorry, you haven't, this is called "human nature". However, just because a few people are behaving badly is not justification for razing the whole system. Better accounting and cost controls? Sure.


"And we'll skip the fact that %59.7 spent on "instruction" is LOUSY, just as LOUSY as %50, and the figure should be more like %80."

In other words, you are admitting you were flat out WRONG about the 50% number you cited. Glad to see you're an open and honest debater. Now, just what makes you think that the "figure should be more like 80%"? I assume that you can cite numerous school districts around the country that achieve your desired spending ratio? Cites, please.

"We'll even skip, for a moment, the fact that you obviously have never sat down with CPA's and torn apart your local school district budget, utilizing such tools as the Open Records Act to acquire actual receipts and detailed expenditure reports that show you how the money is really being spent."

Irrelevant to the argument at hand. Most citizens have not done this sort of thing for any budgetary item in their government's annual spending. Doesn't negate their right to be part of the discussion. Spent much time in a classroom as a teacher, have you? or maybe as a school administrator? NO? If not, you don't have any first-hand knowledge of the difficulties of running a classroom or a school, but that doesn't stop you from having a rather loud opinion on these subjects.

"The figures you use above are from TEA, and that should have alarmed you to begin with."

Why?

"Here's a look at Budget Functions 11 and 95, which are the functions TEA requires school districts to list under the rubric of "Instruction" and which give the inflated figure for "instruction" TEA gives above. If you read these and still believe that %59.7 of operating costs statewide are being spent on what I plainly termed, and by which term I meant "classroom instruction" as I very plainly and clearly wrote above, then I would say you are highly qualified to work for TEA."

I'm astonished. Can you not make even the simplest claims without being rude and condenscending? Have you no decent public forum manners whatsoever? I probably am "highly qualified to work for the TEA", but I don't, and I also don't consider working for the TEA to be in any way demeaning or a term of opprobrium. Someone has to run our state K-12 educational system. I do sometimes have problems with the decisions that they make, but I don't have all the information they do, and neither do you. Do you actually know anyone who works at the TEA? I have met several employees of the organization, and like any large agency, most of them are dedicated to their cause.

"Function 11, Salaries and related expenditures /expenses associated with:

[Long list deleted for brevity]"

OK, the burden of proof is still on you, since you have not explained WHY these are inappropriate expenditures.

"Your statement that "We have a really cheap-ass state government, folks. It's no wonder we have a crappy public school system" is not even remotely related to my argument, to wit, that we have an EXTREMELY mismanaged and wasteful public school system in Texas that spends most of the money we give it on anything BUT classroom education. Nothing you have stated above changes that fact in the least."

Ok, let me draw the picture for you: Texas really doesn't have the overall taxation/revenue generating mechanisms it needs to fulfill all the necessary functions of a large state government. Primary education is a subset of necessary government functions, and it, like the rest of our state system, is underfunded due to the lack of aforementioned sufficient revenue generation. Get it now? Furthermore, you keep talking about your CLAIMS as FACTS. Sorry, but vigorously claiming something as fact does not make it so.

Again, support your claims. Show how Texas schools are "EXTREMELY mismanaged." Clarify what you mean: all of them, most of them, some of them? And compared to what? To schools in Maryland? Or Arizona?


But since when did the NEA -- or any other advocates for higher school taxes --- ever give a damn about waste, mismanagement and people being thrown out onto the streets when they can't afford to pay their school property taxes?

I imagine they care at least as much as we do, since, like us, they have children of their own to be educated, and they pay property taxes just as we do.

On a closing note, do you have any friends at all? If your posts are any indication of how to treat others, I can't see how you'd manage to avoid offending everyone within a 100 foot radius. How about discussing these issues like a rational and calm person, instead of mendacious bully?

Posted by: Locutor on July 25, 2005 9:09 AM

"On a closing note, do you have any friends at all? If your posts are any indication of how to treat others, I can't see how you'd manage to avoid offending everyone within a 100 foot radius. How about discussing these issues like a rational and calm person, instead of mendacious bully?"


Locutor, my observations reflect 25 years of direct involvement and experience in school finance and taxation issues in Texas, and I don't need to explain myslef to an ignorant and vicious little putz like you.

You haven't got the slightest idea what you are talking about, and you are not worth the time of a discussion.

Posted by: ttyler5 on July 26, 2005 6:49 PM