Study of Public School Finance Begins
The committee charged with overhauling the funding of Texas' public schools began its work today in Austin. The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance is examining everything from facilities and transportation to per student costs.
Currently, Texas has a complicated school funding formula that requires some school districts to give up tax funds to poorer districts. Opening the meeting, Co-chair Senator Teel Bivins said: "We have a funding formula that probably no one in this room can explain."
Jeff Boyd, from the Attorney General's Office, gave the committee an overview of the litigation that led to the current funding system. Committee members questioned him and Toni Hamilton, also of the Attorney General's Office, as to which aspects of current and previous systems caused the court challenges. Other questions focused on which taxes could be used to pay for school funding.
Courts have wrestled for years with how much a basic education costs, never reaching a conclusive figure. The Legislature has also failed to come up with a number. Co-chairman Sadler said the House had found that one set dollar figure isn't applicable statewide.
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 18 member committee will be split into subcommittees for the purposes of taking testimony, with the first of those hearings set for November 7 in Amarillo and November 14 in El Paso. Co-chairman Sadler said he expected at least one meeting in the Metroplex, as well as other meetings around the state which will be announced later.
The committee has recessed until 9:00 AM Friday, October 26, 2001, at which time it will continue meeting at the Capitol in Austin.