Eye on Williamson has been doing a great job following all the school finance news. Check out this post on what the upcoming special session won't fix, and this one on the first meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Education Reform & Public School Finance. As you can see from the following quote, the Senate is more on top of things than their House counterparts:
The House education committee has not scheduled meetings.
"We've spent almost ... the last two years full time on this issue. There's not a lot of new ideas," said Arlington Republican Rep. Kent Grusendorf, who has led House education overhaul efforts. "What we need is to get a consensus and move forward, I think that's possible."
Meanwhile, at the meeting of that Senate committee, Texas Soliciter General Ted Cruz continues to remind everyone that cutting property taxes is not a fix for the problem.
"Lowering the cap is moving backwards," said Cruz, referring to previous plans considered by the Legislature.
"What as a policy matter this body may deem attractive is not helpful legally for responding to this claim," said Cruz. "All of the claims brought by the plaintiff school districts were at the end of the day about more money."
Even if lawmakers enact new business taxes to pay for lower property taxes, school districts will need extra state revenue to meet a Texas Supreme Court requirement that they have "meaningful discretion" in their budgets and tax rates, he said.
Cruz, who represented the state before the high court, outlined the tough choices as lawmakers face a June 1 deadline to write a new school finance law.
Other options would be to lower educational standards, raise the tax cap so districts can increase rates or ask voters to amend the Texas Constitution to allow a statewide property tax.
One wonders what Rick Perry will eventually advocate, now that the state's lawyer is telling everyone that the much-derided tax swap schemes from last year are essentially out of the question. The idea of the Texas Tax Reform Commission is to build consensus for a business tax that actually taxes businesses, which can then be used as a better vehicle for school funding. What happens when one or more of Perry's corporate sponsors rebels at the idea of being taxed? The only way this works is if everyone buys into the idea of sharing the burden equally, or at least equitably. Once you start letting this guy or that off the hook, everyone wants the same deal. I think Perry will have some unpleasant (for him) decisions to make.
Finally, via Dos Centavos comes this Carlos Guerra column, which explains why school districts that are within military bases in San Antonio do so well. Here's one reason: They get more money to spend per pupil. Funny how that works.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack