I’ve written before that now would be an excellent time for Democrats to start talking about their proposed alternative for school finance reform. This Waco Trib article gives further evidence in favor of that thesis.
On the hottest partisan issue of the legislative session, House Democrats this session offered more traditional minority party opposition than in 2003. Democrats criticized the Republican-led “Roadmap to Results” school finance plan for not doing enough for education or average taxpayers and crafted a plan that emphasized their goals.
Democrats said their plan offered more money, some of the same reforms and a smaller overall property tax cut that gave the largest tax cuts to owners of less expensive property, by tripling the homeowner’s exemption on taxes to $45,000.
State Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, author of the Roadmap plan, quickly responded that his proposal was a better idea.
“Our plan puts $3 billion more into education and cuts spiraling property taxes by one third, and we get more education for each dollar by asking districts to spend money more efficiently. Their proposal calls for increased spending.”
“They call their plan ‘Live and Learn,’ which must mean ‘living beyond our means and learning to swallow a tax hike,'” Grusendorf said in a statement.
Grusendorf was an author of the Republican plan, so I don’t take much from his criticism. This is more instructive:
[T]he Democratic opposition wasn’t as effective on school finance as it had been on some proposals in the 2003 session, including tort reform, said state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas. The Democratic school finance plan arrived without enough momentum or information for lawmakers to support it, he said, and many lawmakers did not know how it would affect their own school districts.
“Their plan came too late and . . . didn’t get any traction in the House, really, so it just sort of got rolled over,” Branch said.
The timeline pressure would cause the same problems as he and other Republican negotiators were ultimately unable to come up with a compromise on school finance between the House and Senate.
State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, criticized the Democratic plan for coming too late in the process, without undergoing the same public scrutiny the Roadmap plan withstood for weeks as education groups and business groups offered comment and suggestions about the proposal.
Anderson said the House Republicans had already developed “a solid plan.”
All of this can be addressed now, whether or not Governor Perry succumbs to pressure and calls a special session or not (link via PerryVsWorld). Get some analysis done on the plan, with an emphasis on how individual school districts (especially rural ones) would fare. Write op-eds to your local papers and/or ask for a meeting with their editorial boards and tout the plan. Talk to business and education groups and get their buy-in. You don’t know when you’ll be called back to Do Something, so get on it now. Don’t let “they came in too late” and “we don’t know what their plan does” be hindrances for next time.