May 02, 2008
School districts predict financial disaster in their futures

A little cheery news for your morning.

Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Duncan Klussmann said recently that every school district in the state faces bankruptcy in three to seven years unless the Legislature makes changes when it convenes next year.

Klussmann said the Legislature stripped school districts of the means to cope with normal inflation when it froze revenues at 2006 levels. As a result, school districts are being forced to deplete their reserve funds to balance budgets beset with mounting deficits.

"Duncan is correct that the financial situation is going to become dire unless the Legislature takes action," [HISD spokesman Terry] Abbott said. "School districts are indeed frozen -- they can raise almost no additional revenue.

"We have a very strong and healthy reserve fund, thanks to good, long-term policy and planning. But the state's current finance system doesn't afford school districts increases in revenue for pay raises for teachers or steadily rising fuel bills or utility bills or health care costs," he said.

Don't forget to include food costs in this discussion as well. Between food, fuel, and electricity, schools across Texas have been hit with enormous cost increases lately, without being given extra money to absorb them. And the only thing the Lege accomplished in those 2006 special sessions relating to schools was to cut property taxes and replace the lost revenue with an inadequate and widely hated business tax. It's a fine mess they're in, one mostly not of their own making, and as long as Tom Craddick is the Speaker of the House, it's a mess that can only get worse, because Craddick has shown that he has no interest in actually fixing it. Which is to say, it's yet another good reason to support TexBlog PAC and work to get a Democratic majority in the House.

Much of the rest of the article is given to "solutions" to this looming crisis as expounded by Sen. Dan Patrick. Which in his world means a massive shift of the financial burden to lower-income folks by raising sales taxes, with some blame for undocumented immigrants thrown in. The latter is a shame, given that Patrick has shown he is capable of discussing the topic in a rational manner, but I suppose he just can't help himself. While it's always illuminating to know what the Patrick wing of the party plans to do if given the chance, it seems to me that if only as a sop to that oft-elusive ideal known as "balance" it might have been nice to try to get a few words as well from a real expert on education and school finance, like Rep. Scott Hochberg. Alas, we have no such luck.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 02, 2008 to Budget ballyhoo