Senator West chosen to study Texas’ system of school finance

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 @ 1:52PM

DALLAS — State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) has been selected by Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to serve on the Joint Interim Committee to Study the Public School Finance System. The committee, consisting of members of the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, will meet over coming months and make recommendations that will be considered during the 83rd Session of the Texas Legislature which will convene in January 2013.

“Once again I am honored to have a seat at the table in representing the students and parents all across Texas who are our most important stakeholders when it comes to public schools in this state,” said Senator West. “How we choose to invest in them will help determine whether industry will have the skilled workforce it needs. This in turn, decides Texas’ future economic growth and success.

“It is important that the members of this Joint Committee earnestly evaluate how we fund public schools and whether those mechanisms we put in place are sufficient to meet the needs of the 80,000 new students that each year joins the four million children we educate statewide who depend on us to provide the means to a quality education,” said Senator West.

Texas current system of public school finance now faces legal challenges by some 500 school districts statewide, who joined by education and civil rights advocates, claim the state has failed to adequately fund public schools. Those cases are expected to go to trial in Austin later this year. The system now in place since 2006 lowered property taxes and created a new business franchise tax that as predicted, has underperformed in generating the amount of money needed to fund schools at historical levels. This, known as the “structural deficit” has been paid using state general revenues since that time. That was not possible in 2011, as Texas was still recovering from the impact of the 2008 recession that contributed to a shortfall in state tax revenues.

“I have the history of having traveled this road before,” said Senator West. “We spent the 2005 Regular Session and three Special Sessions formulating a school finance system that we knew would not work. That blank check we wrote in 2006 had to be paid last year. Now, we see the results as school districts have been left with the unenviable choices of raising taxes to cover state revenue shortfalls, or laying off teachers and closing schools. I would only hope that we as legislators choose to set aside ideology and do what is in the best interest of Texas schools, school kids and educators this time around.”

Eleven state senators and 11 members of the Texas House will make up the Joint Interim Committee to Study the Public School Finance System. The co-chairmen and members were appointed by the Lt. Governor and Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus. Senator West is a member of standing Senate Education and Higher Education committees and served on the Senate Subcommittee on Public Education Funding during the 2011 Legislative Session.

For more information, please contact Kelvin Bass or LaJuana Barton at 214-467-0123.

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