Sen. Lucio adds Instructional Facilities Study Amendment to Public School Finance Bill
Austin, TX--Last week as the Senate debated House Bill 2, the Public School Finance Bill, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. added an amendment directing the Texas Comptroller to examine the most pressing school facility needs in the state.
"I have asked the Texas Comptroller to estimate the need and projected cost for new instructional facilities and renovations in the next 10 to 20 years," explained Sen. Lucio. "In Brownsville alone, we have more than 400 portable buildings serving as classrooms. I realize portables can be found all over the state, but this many in one school district is an outrage."
There currently is no statewide data identifying the total number of portable classrooms in use by school districts in Texas or the projected need for new instructional facilities in the future. With the student population in Texas growing at a fast rate, certain school districts have trouble keeping up with adding classrooms and building schools.
"A facilities study would help us as legislators better plan and budget for programs, such as the Existing Debt Allotment and Instructional Facilities Allotment," said Sen. Lucio.
Sen. Lucio had also proposed an amendment with an appropriation of $300 million per biennium to the Instructional Facilities Fund (IFA) for new facilities, but it lacked support. This amount would have funded almost all of the eligible projects in the past five funding cycles for IFA. Without the assurance of IFA assistance, the poorest of the poor school districts in Texas cannot risk passing a bond to expand or build new schools because taxpayers would see increased tax rates of 40 cents to 55 cents per $100 valuation without state assistance.
While the IFA amendment did not prevail, Sen. Lucio received a commitment from Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro during the floor debate to locate $150 million in funding for the Instructional Facilities Allotment program.
Sen. Lucio also said that "facilities funding is a huge component of the equity equation for public schools not adequately addressed by the state. The West-Orange Cove District Court decision by Judge John Dietz in September 2004 confirmed that the state is not providing adequate funding for facilities (the Texas Supreme Court will hear an appeal on the Dietz decision this summer), and the system in place does not provide districts with assured funding assistance when they need it. The Texas Supreme Court decision in the Edgewood IV case also criticized the state for under-funding facilities assistance for poor school districts."
The IFA Study Amendment will now be in conference committee as part of the public school finance bill.