The Lege is unlikely to do anything substantive on education this session

Oh, there will be lots of sound and fury, as well as various sideshow distractions, but in the end the main issue to resolve – school finance – will be at best “tweaked”. For anything more than that, we will have to wait till the Lege is forced to act by the Supreme Court.

Jimmie Don Aycock

Public education promises to dominate the 2015 legislative session, as advocacy groups prepare yet again for a struggle over vouchers and lawmakers decide whether to tweak an outdated, complex school finance system.

With nearly 40 percent of the state’s $200 billion budget going to education, school finance is always a major driver of debate during Texas’ biennial legislative sessions. The nature of the debate in next year’s session is harder to anticipate, however, as new leaders with resolute education stances flood the upper chamber.

“I think there will be some – I hate to use the term ‘nibbling around the edges’ – but tweaks and specific measures” to how Texas funds public schools, said Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen. “But do we have a full revamp of the school finance system? I would be surprised if that happened before the Supreme Court ruled.”

Aycock, who chairs the House Committee on Public Education, has been meeting with a small ad hoc group of lawmakers since state District Judge John Dietz of Austin struck down Texas’ method for funding public schools in late August, citing problems of equity, adequacy and efficiency. Attorney General Greg Abbott has appealed Dietz’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

The legislative group likely won’t yield any cohesive policy recommendations, but Aycock said he plans to file legislation to tweak the system and he expects others will, too. The changes will fall far short of what many teacher groups want, however.

See here for some background. The sideshow of course will be vouchers, and with Dan Patrick running amok in the Senate it is possible they could get somewhere. I doubt they’ll gain much traction in the House where the Parent PAC-endorsed Aycock and Speaker Joe Straus can deep-six them, but you never know. I figure there will be some action on standardized testing, because there’s always some action on standardized testing, and I’m interested in hearing more about “community schools” as the anti-vouchers. Beyond that, we wait for the Supreme Court.

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