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February 4, 2009 (512) 463-0300

FINANCE LOOKS AT SCHOOL BUDGET

(AUSTIN) — The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony Wednesday that public education will cost the state less in the upcoming biennium. The Legislative Budget Board laid out a base budget for public school education totaling $49 billion in all funds, $1.5 billion less than last biennium. This is due to a number of factors, including the fact that property values outpaced anticipated student growth last year, meaning more property tax money for fewer students than were expected. The Legislature will also have to make one less payment to the Permanent School Foundation (PSF) this year, in order to correct for past payments deferred one biennium forward. The base budget also includes an additional $1.9 billion to the PSF to support school equity.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott also testified at Wednesday's meeting, laying out the agencies top priorities for the 2010-2011 budget. Number one on the list is $64 million to train teachers on the best ways to teach and administer newly mandated end of course exams. This money will provide training for about 65,000 teachers, and Scott hopes this will improve exit exam pass rates, which never rose above 40 percent in years when they were required.

Another major priority is adult education. Scott said his agency has worked with the other two agencies that deal with adult education, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. These three bodies have come up with a comprehensive plan to offer education to bring under-educated adults to at least an 8th grade level of proficiency, and provide workforce development and skills training. "This is not just an education issue, its an economic development issue," he said. Scott asked for $50 million to meet these goals.

Scott further testified that he would like to better define the role and scope of his agency. Since 2003, he said other smaller agencies have been added to the TEA, blurring the mission and goals of the agency. "I would like to use this session as an opportunity to discuss the role of the agency, its size, its mission, and its duties," he told committee members. "I'd like to have a discussion with everyone of you on what you expect from the agency and how we can better focus our agency resources on improving student performance."

The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 9, at 1:30 p.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

Cole Family
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst greets the family of Timothy Cole during a resolution in his honor. Cole died in prison in 1999 after spending 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. A hearing seeking a posthumous exoneration for Cole begins Thursday.

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