FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2005
AUSTIN, TX--Tonight I voted with my constituents in South Texas. Over the past two and a half years, I sat through numerous town hall meetings and committee hearings where educational leaders, school teachers, counselors, administrators and parents told me again and again that our school children are falling behind the curve because there is an inadequate level of funding and equity in our current system. Children with learning disadvantages require more money to teach than is currently provided; fast growth districts cannot keep up with the costs of enrollment spikes and new instructional facilities; we are losing our most qualified teachers to the private sector; and state and federal performance standards and school mandates are increasing but new funds are not.
It is my personal belief that throughout all the versions of this school reform bill, the suggestions of Senators who represent fast growth districts with a large proportion of economically disadvantaged students have been only superficially addressed.
I opposed Senate Bill 8 because it was a meager attempt to address the true needs of our school children, needs that were upheld by a state district court in Texas and are still being litigated in the state supreme court. Our school children deserve better. Our educators deserve better. While the bill's author purported that Senate Bill 8 provides a minimum of a three percent increase, that amount barely covers salary increases and other mandates in the bill. Bilingual education and compensatory education programs are woefully underfunded in the current system and SB 8 provides no additional money for them.
A committee amendment by Senator Ogden was extremely problematic. Many Senators voiced concern because it backpedaled on promises to fund equity in the guaranteed yield, updates to the cost of education index and increases to the small and midsized adjustment in future biennia. That amendment destroyed all the good faith I had in the proposed bill. I was told that there would be an amendment to fix this concern; however, the amendment language was not completely taken out.
I am elated that I garnered the necessary votes to include a provision in the bill requiring that schools start no earlier than the first day after Labor Day. Yet, in spite of my deep commitment to the start date issue, I was compelled to vote against SB 8 because its provisions are financially damaging to the school districts in South Texas and do not provide property tax relief for our homeowners. It was a difficult decision, but since equity was far from achieved, I had to vote no.
Part of the education solution is a fair taxing system that grows with the economy. We have an antiquated tax system. It places the burden on homeowners while only one in five businesses pay franchise taxes. The current tax structure depends on capital intensive industries while the new economy is not taxed. Manufacturing was the backbone of the old economy. Today, the service industry and high tech industry are the new economic engines, but we are still taxing the old style industries, homeowners and the poor. We are trying to fix a 21st century education funding problem with a century old tax system. We cannot continue to expect that property taxes and sales taxes will manage the entire burden.
Note: Staff member handling this issue is Ms. Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, and she can be reached at 512-463-0127.