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House starts thinking about school finance

Good to see.

Jimmie Don Aycock

For the past several weeks, state lawmakers have been meeting to discuss how to better fund public education in the wake of a court ruling calling Texas’ school finance system inequitable, inefficient and illegal.

Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, confirmed he and 12 to 15 members of the state House have formed an ad hoc, informal group to discuss the state’s method of funding public schools ahead of the 2015 session. The bipartisan group has held a few meetings since the system was declared unconstitutional by State District Judge John Dietz in late August, Aycock said. Attorney General Greg Abbott later appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

“I think our group is, basically, looking at what’s practical and doable, independent of whatever the Supreme Court ruling is,” Aycock told the Houston Chronicle on Friday. “And as you might expect in that group, there’s a variety of opinions.”

Aycock said the group has not yet yielded any concrete ideas – no specific bills or funding amounts have been discussed – noting many of the most important funding decisions sat not with his panel but with the appropriations committees.

Ideally, however, he said he hoped the group would first tackle the issue of equity.

“That’s my personal, biggest concern,” said Aycock. “If I could solve anything, my priority would be the equity issue. I’m a big believer in we need to try to fund as equitably as possible. I don’t think we’ll ever achieve perfect equity.”

A couple of the plaintiffs’ attorneys had positive reactions to this, and I tend to agree. If there’s one Republican I have some faith in on this, it’s Aycock. He will at least lead an honest discussion, and he will have the members’ trust. Whether there is anything they can come up with that can then be passed in both chambers is another story, but that’s not his concern right now. It’s not clear to me that equity will be any easier to tackle than adequacy will, but I suppose one can cling to the belief that the Supreme Court will not force that issue. Be that as it may, I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

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