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April 21, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - New school finance legislation was announced today, which means more money for teachers and less for property tax cuts. The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 4 increases the minimum teacher's salary by $4000 dollars a year, but only teachers who are below the new minimum salary would be guaranteed a pay raise. Critics, including El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh, argued that the money may not get to the teachers. School districts already paying more than the new minimum salary would not be required to pass the new money from the state on to teachers under this bill.

Bill sponsor and Education Committee Chair Teel Bivins of Amarillo thinks pressure from teachers will force school districts to pass it on. "I find in school finance that you always have critics no matter what you do," said Bivins to reporters today.

The bill provides an extra $50 million for fast-growing school districts and $750 million for all districts to finance new buildings and old debt. These funds could help school districts limit property tax increases.

Bivins says the new proposal does not match the governor's wishes of about $2 billion in property tax cuts but has not given up hope yet. "I've also in my conversations with the governor talked to him about having a goal of tax cuts across the board not just property tax cuts and it's my hope that we can get very close to that two billion dollars by the end of session," said Bivins. Bivins says he thinks the current system still relies too much on property taxes to finance education but he thinks this version of the bill has a good chance of passing the Senate. He says the Education Committee will meet to vote on the bill Friday morning and hopes to have it to the Senate floor by next Tuesday.

Tax credits may be available for businesses that finance before and after school programs under legislation passed out of the Senate. Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 9 and says children need more activities after school ends. "I think the bill makes a lot of sense, it's good public policy and something we should have done a long time ago," said Duncan.

A bill allowing teachers to discipline an unruly student without fear of being reprimanded passed out of the Education Committee. Houston Senator John Whitmire sponsors SB1213 and says the guidelines will create a better environment for learning.

The Senate reconvenes tomorrow, April 22, at 10 a.m..

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