Texas needs to scrap its school funding system and start all over, Senate Education Chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said Thursday, as other members of a special school finance committee agreed that the existing system is hopelessly broken.
“We need to find a better system that works for all of us,” said Shapiro, who also is co-chair of the Select Committee On Public School Finance Weights, Allotments and Adjustments.
According to committee members and experts, the system has vast inequities of more than $1,000 per student and is built on adjustments for low-income students, rural school districts, small districts, medium districts and other factors that are nearly 30 years old with little reflection of real costs.
“We need to change our system so people understand it because we don’t understand it,” said Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who co-chairs the special committee.
Well, yeah. It’s nice to see legislators talking about this before the next lawsuit gets filed. The next step, as Rep. Scott Hochberg noted in the story, is to come to grips with the fact that the schools are underfunded as well. When we’re ready to deal with that, we’ll really have something. But this is still a good first step.
And when we do get around to changing this system, let’s make sure we don’t make it worse.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he favors a sales tax increase to fund public education instead of property tax revenue.
“The homeowners and the commercial business owners can’t stand much more,” Patrick said, noting that all consumers would directly contribute to public education if the funding source shifts from property to sales.
Every penny increase in the state’s current 6.25 cent sales tax rate would generate $2.4 billion, he said.
What isn’t being said here is that Patrick would also cut property taxes by an equivalent amount. That would not only ensure that the schools remain perpetually underfunded, it would also give people like Dan Patrick a sizable reduction in their tax bill while imposing a significant tax increase on the vast majority of Texans. If you want Dan Patrick to raise your taxes, without doing anything to improve the schools, you should be cheering him on. If you want to see actual progress being made to fix this problem, you shouldn’t be. You should also be supporting Bill White, but I figure that goes without saying by now.