The definition of insanity

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Education, Public Schools, The Budget at 5:47 pm by wcnews

There’s a big whole in the budget and the next session is going to be ugly. Here’s the latest from Texas AFT, Hard Times, Hard Choices.

For months now, we’ve been hearing the comptroller report that state revenue collections have dropped dramatically as the national recession caught up with the Texas economy.

For several years, we’ve known that the school property-tax cuts passed in 2006 would not be fully replaced, as promised, with revenue from the new state business-franchise tax passed that year. When you hear folks talking about a structural state budget shortfall, that’s generally what they’ve been talking about. This “structural shortfall” terminology also has been applied lately to the use of one-time federal stimulus funding to cover the cost of ongoing programs-for now.

For decades, state lawmakers have failed to come up with a sustainable revenue structure that would grow along with the state’s rising population and growing needs. That’s another kind of structural budget shortfall less often noticed but of crucial importance. It’s the underlying reason why the state’s school-finance system periodically plunges into constitutional crisis over the inadequacy and inequity of education funding.

They go on to point out that “..in the last week, three key developments occurred at the state legislature”. They are:

  • January 12: House Speaker Joe Straus announced the creation of a House Select Committee on Fiscal Stability.
  • January 13: At a little-noted hearing of the Texas House Ways and Means Committee in Houston, it became clearer just how hard that “fiscally responsible work” will be. Analysts at the Legislative Budget Board estimated that the state in the next biennium will have at least $10.8 billion less than the amount lawmakers used to make ends meet for 2010-2011.
  • January 15: The Republican state leadership triumvirate-Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Speaker Straus-instructed state agencies to come up with proposed cuts of 5 percent of their current budgets to be implemented in the current biennium.

And yesterday there was a fourth, Special State Committee Formed to Study School Finance and More.

A key committee with a wide-ranging portfolio took shape today as the lieutenant governor and House speaker jointly announced their appointees. Today’s appointees to the Select Committee on Public School Finance will join two already named by the governor, plus the commissioner of education, Robert Scott, who serves ex officio.

Four senators named by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to this panel today are Florence Shapiro (co-chair), Republican of Plano; Robert Duncan, Republican of Lubbock; Dan Patrick, Republican of Houston; and Royce West, Democrat of Dallas. The lieutenant governor also named Dr. Leonard Culwell, superintendent of Garland ISD, as a representative of the “public school community,” and Dr. Harrison Keller, former top education adviser to previous House Speaker Tom Craddick, as a business representative.

Four legislative appointees from the Texas House are Reps. Rob Eissler (co-chair), Republican of The Woodlands; Jimmie Don Aycock, Republican of Killeen; Scott Hochberg, Democrat of Houston; and Mike Villarreal, Democrat of San Antonio. Also named today by House Speaker Joe Straus were Dr. Richard Middleton, superintendent of North East ISD in San Antonio, and Larry Kellner, former chief executive of Continental Airlines.

The gubernatorial appointees to the panel are Switzer Deason, a business executive from College Station, and Mary Ann Whiteker of Lufkin, superintendent of Hudson ISD.

This 15-member select committee will hold hearings around the state as it makes a comprehensive review of the education funding weights, allotments, and adjustments that have built up over the years in response to various funding needs and pressures. For example, the state doesn’t just allocate a set amount of dollars per student; school districts are entitled to extra funding-weighted funding-as specified by state formulas for various types of students with special needs. Some other adjustments are made based on the varying costs districts face.

This is essentially the same crew (Perry, Dewhurst, Shapiro, et al.), that “fixed” public school finance in 2006 with a tax swap that has created a structural deficit in this state. Why anyone in this state would expect these people to come up with a “fix” this time is not rational. It’s unlikely the state can survive another failed tax scheme like the one that they came up with in 2006.

Today state Sen. Eliot Shapliegh sent out a press release on the “Texas Dropout Epidemic” and it shows that we’ve known for quite some time that education is the key to future economic success.

“If the current relationships between minority status and educational attainment, occupations of employment, and wage and salary income do not change in the future from those existing in 1990, the future workforce of Texas will be less educated, more likely to be employed in lower-level state occupations and earning lower wages and salaries than the present workforce.”
- former Texas State Demographer Dr. Steve Murdock

That was written in 1997. Economic success in the way of jobs that pay a living wage that can sustain families, of all kinds, and allow them to raise well educated children. Not economic success, as in huge corporate profits and a plethora low and minimum wage jobs. It’s well know too that every penny we spend on education is money well spent and is the best long-term economic stimulus there is. It’s been proven over and over again that as long as these people are in charge public education in Texas will continue to be neglected, like so many other things in this state. And it’s insane to keep returning them to power.

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