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February 7, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Joint Committee Tackles School Finance Reform

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance today began looking at alternative ways to fund Texas schools. Currently, Texas schools rely primarily on property taxes with state aid for funding, with wealthier school districts sending part of their tax revenues to poorer districts under the so-called "Robin Hood" plan. The plan was adopted in an effort to provide equal education funding for all students.

Senator Florence Shapiro led off the day's remarks by saying that Texas needs to first determine how much money per pupil is needed, and then raise that much money. She said the state currently starts with a figure and splits that money up among the districts.

Committee Chairman Bivins replied that while that was an excellent idea, there is neither time nor budget for a major investigation along those lines. They agreed that any such study would be done over the next few years.

Various ideas and plans were submitted by members of the public and committee members alike. Committee member Craig Foster recommended that Texas businesses pay a larger share of the school tax burden, saying that to $700 million dollars now being transferred from one school district under Robin Hood could be cut by up to 90 percent if businesses paid that larger share.

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance is Co-Chaired by Senator Teel Bivins and Representative Paul Sadler. Members include Senators Steve Ogden, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Leticia Van De Putte and Royce West. Members from the House of Representatives include Harold Dutton, Kent Grusendorf, Scott Hochberg, Rene Olivera and Todd Smith. Public members include Kent Caperton, Will Davis, Craig Foster, Lyndon Olson, Mark Stiles and David Thompson. Also attending today's meeting was Senator Mike Jackson of La Porte. The subcommittee recessed subject to call of the chair.

You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.

Finance Subcommittee On Trauma Care Convenes

The Trauma Care Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee met today in Austin with the goal of examining state funding of trauma care centers and what changes need to be made. Subcommittee Chairman Chris Harris said "they are indeed facing a severe deficit, that as the years go on...the state needs to recognize how important they are." He said trauma centers would close unless new funding is found.

Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo said the topic affects not only every Texan, but visitors as well. She said that who lives and who dies may be determined by where they are when they need care. Senator Jon Lindsay of Houston said that while his hometown has excellent care, there is indeed a statewide problem.

Cathy Perkins of the Texas Department of Health testified about the organization and funding of EMS facilities statewide. She said advances such as enabling all cell phones to dial the local 911 service would be helpful.

The committee will have meetings in the Rio Grande Valley, Houston, and in the Metroplex as well. The Finance Subcommittee on Trauma Care is Chaired by Senator Chris Harris of Arlington, members include Senators Jon Lindsay of Houston, Judith Zaffrini of Laredo, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Mike Jackson of La Porte. The subcommittee recessed subject to call of the chair.

You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of the Senate Finance Committee.

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