SENATORS REAFFIRM COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION FUNDING
|At a press conference on Wednesday, Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano said keeping money in the classroom should be the Legislature's top priority.|
(AUSTIN) — A group of Senators considering public education funding said Wednesday that money going into the classroom should be the budget's top priority. Led by Education Committee Chair Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, the group said the state and local districts should look first to administrative cuts before they think about laying off teachers or cutting back on instructional materials. "The success of public education starts and ends in the classroom," said Shapiro.
Shapiro, who also chairs the Senate subcommittee developing the public education budget recommendations, laid out some ways the state can cut back on education spending while leaving funding for teachers and students relatively intact. First, she said, the Legislature should reduce the number of unfunded state mandates placed on school districts, which should free up more money at the local level.
|San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte won passage of a bill that would increase penalties against human traffickers.|
Second, Shapiro and her colleagues believe that budget writers should look to make cuts to the administrative side of education. According to the Legislative Budget Board, non-teaching salaries for districts exceed $9 billion a year; a 10 percent cut here would mean savings of nearly $2 billion for the next biennium. "The first cuts should not come to the classroom, but to the administrative side of education," said Houston Senator and Education Committee Vice-chair Dan Patrick. Shapiro's subcommittee is set to deliver public education budget recommendations to the full Finance Committee on Thursday.
In floor action Wednesday, the Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill intended to combat the practice of human trafficking in Texas. Since 2007, 369 children under the age of 18 have been rescued from traffickers in Texas, who use the children as virtual slaves for both sex and labor. San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte authored the bill aimed at increasing penalties for human traffickers. Under the bill, human trafficking offenses would be classified as "3-G", putting it on par with offenses such as murder and rape. It also extends the statute of limitations for trafficking charges, and permits a child's parent or guardian to obtain a restraining order against alleged traffickers. This bill now heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 24 at 8:30 a.m. to consider local and uncontested bills, and will meet in regular session at 10 a.m.