State leaders must put children first
I would like update you on the current status of the legislative debate regarding repairing public school finance.
The House has passed five bills, all of which modify how Texas pays for public schools and which reduce property taxes by adding additional broad-based business taxes. The bills include expanding a state business tax, using roughly 2.4 billion of our state surplus, increasing the cigarette tax and increasing taxes on the purchases of used cars. The House also voted to eliminate a condition that would have allowed property-wealthy school districts a way out of sharing their property taxes.
The bills then moved to the Senate for our consideration. The Senate has passed the expansion of the business tax and the increase on the purchase of used cars. While the legislation passed by the House was a good starting point in terms of a solution to school finance, it fails to invest in our public schools. I cannot support using such a large portion of our surplus without ensuring that Texas school funding will be equalized and that we will give our quality teachers a significant raise. It is fiscally irresponsible, and it fails to deliver on our promise to Texas families to improve public education.
At the time of this printing, the Senate was still debating education measures to add to the House proposal, but so far the suggested additions are still not enough. It is time for state leaders who claim to put children first to actually start putting children first. Legislators cannot claim to have improved our public schools when we are on a course which may not help one single child learn one single thing any better.
If we are serious about improving public education, we will create a system with a high level of funding equity. If we are going to require every child in Texas to pass the same standardized test, we must give every child in Texas the resources to do so. If we are serious about improving public education, we will make sure that our children attract and retain the best teachers in the nation. We must give Texas teachers a substantial pay raise, before we lose the best of them.
While I am for property tax relief, I agree with the vast majority of Texans who believe that property tax relief cannot come at the expense of the quality education of our children. I cannot compromise on this important principle.
I remain cautiously optimistic that this session may yet produce real movement toward excellence in public education. But if it does, it will be because the Senate puts our public schools first.