On June 2, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus took the first step in addressing responsibilities for the legislature outlined in the Texas Supreme Court ruling on May 13 that, among other comments, noted that there is significant room for improvement in the school finance system. While meeting the “minimum constitutional requirements”, the Court determined that responsibility to address shortcomings in the current system are best left to the legislature and not to the courts to mandate.
Make Education a Priority is pleased by the leadership shown by the Speaker in addressing the issues raised by the litigation originally targeting both adequacy and equity of the current system. In his interim charges to the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Public Education, Speaker Straus identified two specific charges:
- “Current law requires the elimination on September 1, 2017, of Additional State Aid for Tax Relief (ASATR), which was intended to offset the cost of tax-rate compressions enacted in 2006. Review how this loss of funding would impact school districts.
- ”Study the use of local property taxes to fund public education and its effects on educational quality and on Texas taxpayers. Specifically, recommend ways to reverse the increasing reliance on recapture payments to fund public education statewide.”
These charges are in addition to interim charges previously issued addressing the need to study the Cost of Education Index and schools’ facility needs and debt. As noted in the release from Speaker Straus’s office, “Combined with those studies (CEI, facility needs and debt), the newly issued charges will allow the House to take a thorough look at school finance when the Legislature convenes in January 2017.”
In the nearly three weeks since the Court’s decision, much has been debated and discussed relating to the responsibility and anticipated action of the legislature. Many have questioned the degree to which the legislature would respond. Again, quoting from Speaker Straus’s release, “The House will continue working toward better schools for our students and a more efficient funding system for taxpayers.”
Craig Rothmeier, MEaP president, said, “Make Education a Priority is pleased that the Speaker has demonstrated the leadership to tackle school finance and not to sit on the sidelines and accept the ‘minimum constitutional requirements’ noted by the Court. We applaud his efforts and pledge to work closely with legislators to address gaps, while also providing input on solutions that will address the needs of the nearly 5.3 million Texas public education students."
About Make Education a Priority
Make Education a Priority is a 501(c)3 organization that advocates for the interests of public education students across the State of Texas. Founded as a grassroots movement in 2011, MEaP is focused on fostering public engagement with schools, promoting effective school board governance, and enhancing relationships with policymakers. For additional information, please contact Bobby J Rigues, MEaP CEO, at email@example.com
or Craig Rothmeier, MEaP president, at firstname.lastname@example.org