WEEK IN REVIEW
SENATE PASSES EDUCATION FUNDING BILL
(AUSTIN) — The Senate passed a bill Friday night that the body's chief budget writer says is key to passing an appropriations bill before the session ends in little more than a week. Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden of Bryan has said that without a bill making changes to public school funding, lawmakers could face yet another budget shortfall in 2013. The measure passed Friday was attached to a fiscal matters bill by Education Committee Chair Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, who said the funding plan was vital to get extra money appropriated to education in the Senate budget into Texas classrooms. "It is simply unacceptable for our local school districts to be denied the resources to keep good teachers in the classrooms," she said.
The amendment was identical to Shapiro's SB 22, and takes aim at "target revenue", the current funding system that Ogden said has caused a structural shortfall. When the Legislature voted in 2006 to reduce property taxes by one-third, they created a business tax that was intended to cover the lost revenue. In case the new tax didn't bring in enough revenue, school districts were "held harmless", with their 2005-2006 funding levels guaranteed for the future. As it turned out the business tax did underperform to the tune of about $10 billion dollars. This meant the state did not have the money it needed to keep funding schools at those 2006 levels.
The measure passed Friday means to end target revenue by 2017, phasing it out over the next few years. It tweaks the formulas used to determine how much money each school gets from the Foundation School Program, the state's primary education source of funding. It also implements a 2 percent cut in funding to all districts over the next biennium. The new plan would allow $5 billion in additional funding over the base budget originally sent to the Senate.
With this bill passing in the Senate and the House considering a vital revenue bill, a deal on the budget could come within the next few days. Lawmakers in both chambers have 10 days to reach a compromise and present a final proposal to the full Senate and House.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 23 at 10 a.m.