Democratic state representatives say if the economy is improving then let’s re-fund public education, Dems, GOP debate school funds.
Texas has added 440,000 payroll jobs since December 2009, which John Heleman, chief revenue estimator for Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, identified as the recession’s low point during a House Appropriations Committee hearing Tuesday.
Sales tax revenue for the first five months of the state’s fiscal year is up 11 percent over the same period last year, he said.
“It looks like the Texas consumer is back. They are buying,” Heleman said of the growth in revenue from the sales tax, the state’s single largest revenue source outside of the federal government.
Oil production tax revenue has increased 47 percent over the same period last year, Heleman said. The state ended the fiscal year last fall with a $1.6 billion surplus, and he estimated the state’s rainy day fund to contain $7.3 billion by the end of the current budget cycle.
The Legislature cut public school funding by $2 billion over what existing law would have provided this year, and another $2 billion will be cut next year.
With the economic recovery accelerating, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, wondered why lawmakers can’t restore funding to public schools.
“Right now, we have a lot of schools that are hurting,” the committee vice chairman said. “We need to consider how we are going to address the needs of our schoolchildren.”
After the hearing, committee member Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, said it’s become apparent that last year’s public school education cuts will become permanent.
In addition to a $4 billion cut in basic school funding, Villarreal said another $2 billion deferral payment to the next fiscal year means public education will start the next legislative session in a $6 billion hole.
Public education funding will play a big role in the elections later this year, he said.
“The only way to change the priorities in the Capitol is to change out members of the Legislature,” Villarreal said.
Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said there’s no appetite among his GOP House colleagues for a special legislative session to avoid more public education funding cuts. Perry could call one after the next regular session to deal with school finance litigation now in the courts, Pitts said.
“Until we get some direction from the courts, we’re flying blind,” he said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he won’t call a special session to help public schools in Texas, No special session on education, Perry says.
But in the interview a few hours later, Perry declared: “No special session. We’re not going to have a special session.”
“I appreciate all of the legislators’ input, but I would be stunned if there is an outcry from the people of this state or, for that matter, a majority of the members of the Legislature that want to come back in here and have a special session when I don’t think we need one,” Perry said.
And the Texas Democratic Party is holding Larry Gonzales Responsible for School Closure, Teacher Lay-Offs in His District. Read full press release below in extended entry.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Rebecca Acuña
Larry Gonzales Responsible for School Closure, Teacher Lay-Offs in His District
Republican State Rep. Larry Gonzales voted for a budget that went against the interest of his constituents and slashed billions from public education. As a result of his vote, Hutto ISD, which is located in the district Gonzales represents, was forced to close Veteran’s Hill Elementary and lay off 70 employees. Hutto ISD is having a public meeting today at 6:30 PM to seek input from the community on the budget cuts.
“Larry Gonzales and his Republican colleagues weren’t playing with monopoly money during the last session,”said TDP spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña. “Their votes had consequences. Now school children in Gonzales’ district are paying for his reckless votes.”
According to Hutto ISD’s website:
“The Hutto Independent School District Due to inadequate state funding and recent budget cuts, Hutto ISD must trim an additional $1.2 million from its operating budget for the 2012-13 school year. These additional cuts follow $4.5 million in cuts during the 2011-12 school year, which included the loss of about 70 staff members, the closure of Veteran’s Hill Elementary and budget cuts at all campuses.”
Hutto ISD is also considering
- · Charging children $100 a semester to ride the school bus;
- · Charging children $100 a year to participate in extracurricular activities;
- · Eliminating instructional field-trips;
- · Canceling away travel for the band.
“Children want season tickets to see their favorite sports team, not to ride on the school bus,” added TDP spokesman Anthony Gutierrez. “Gonzales must own up to what he’s done. At the very least, he should apologize to the families in his district.”