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September 13, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Public School Finance Committee Looks at How Other States Fund Education

AUSTIN - The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance today examined alternatives to the way Texas currently funds the public school system by examining how other states face that challenge.

Today's first witness was Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner of Education in Kansas. Dennis said that in Kansas as in Texas, local property taxes and sales taxes play a large part, but that Kansas also has an income tax for education. He also testified that when schools or school districts drop below a certain number of pupils, the cost per pupil goes up. He said the Kansas education system is working to see that students are educated as efficiently as possible by using a combination of state and local taxes.

Michael Griffith, Policy Analyst, Education Commission of the States, described what types of educational funding is considered adequate in other states. He made it clear that schools are adequately funded only when the amount of funding is sufficient for them to meet the goals that they have been given by the state. He also said that other states are going through a similar process, trying to determine what "adequate funding" is.

Harrison Keller from The University of Texas at Austin testified that new studies are coming on how successful schools are funded. He said the point is to identify schools that are not only successful but also cost-effective. Keller also testified that these studies would be able to determine which campuses are more cost-effective than others, even within the same school district.

Joe Wisnoski from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) then briefed the committee on the recent history of school funding in Texas. He described how the agency had decided what funding each school district deserved for the courses being taught. He said several different systems had been used since the 1980s, when the state's school funding system was declared unconstitutional by the courts. Ursula Parks from the Legislative Budget Board spoke on the finer points of today's school funding system.

Congressman John Culberson was the final witness and recommended a constitutional amendment that would give the legislature the full authority to design the school finance system and force the courts to uphold it.

Committee co-chairs are Senator Teel Bivins and Representative Paul Sadler. Members include Senators Steve Ogden, Florence Shapiro, Eliot Shapleigh, Leticia Van de Putte and Royce West. Also on the committee are Representatives Harold Dutton, Kent Grusendorf, Scott Hochberg, Rene Oliveria and Todd Smith. Public members include Kent Caperton, Will Davis, Craig Foster, Lyndon Olson, Mark Stiles and David Thompson. The committee recessed subject to the call of the chair.

You can access the archived audio webcast from the Senate's web page of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.

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