SENATOR DAN PATRICK FILES EDUCATION REFORM BILL
AUSTIN – Today, Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) filed legislation to reduce the number of unfunded mandates on school districts across Texas. "At a time when districts across the state are struggling to pay the bills, we need to reduce the number of costly mandates on them," stated Senator Patrick. "Fast-growth school districts have been particularly hit hard by the economic downturn, increased inflationary costs and the current school finance formula."
The legislation targets several specific issues, including mandates on energy usage, light bulbs, and school bus evacuation training. "Many mandates are passed with good intentions but they often drive up costs with very little benefit," said Sen. Patrick. "By making just three of these mandates voluntary, one school district that I represent will save over $1.3 million," he emphasized. "This bill will save school districts millions of dollars statewide," he added.
The legislation also addresses class-size limits, enabling districts to set class sizes based upon a campus-wide average as opposed to each classroom. "Years ago, lawmakers picked a random number and decided we should limit our classes to 22 students," Sen. Patrick stated. "Currently the 23rd student can force a school to add an entire class by splitting up students, require them to hire a teacher and provide the classroom all at unneeded taxpayer expense." Senator Patrick added, "In addition, parents and students don't like being split up in the middle of the year."
Dr. David Anthony, superintendent, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District strongly supports this bill. "I support this bill because it will give the campus administrator and staff more flexibility in making staffing and student changes at critical times within the school year. Under the current law, fast-growth districts are continuously faced with securing highly qualified staff after the school year has begun. The disruption to students, teachers, and their families is significant," stated Dr. Anthony.
In conjunction with this bill, Senator Patrick will push for increased new instructional facilities funding and recognition of local homestead exemptions in school finance calculations.