News flash: School finance reform is hard. Especially when all it’s doing is taking money away from everyone.
The clock is a-tickin’ for Texas lawmakers to cobble together a budget compromise that enacts deep cuts to public education.
But with less than three weeks left in the legislative session, neither chamber has debated, much less passed, a school finance bill that would reduce the state aid owed to school districts by as much as $6.5 billion.
Both the House and Senate budgets are precariously balanced on the assumption that such legislation would be approved. Failure to do so would probably force lawmakers into a special session this summer.
“It’s essential that we pass some type of school finance reform in order to successfully end the session. So it’s the No. 1 priority right now,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.
On the House side, Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, said the school finance legislation would not be among the bills to make it to the floor before a key deadline at the end of the week.
“There are a lot of interconnected parts that aren’t fitting together yet,” said Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands.
The House plan could still hitch a ride on another piece of legislation, but at least one local lawmaker, Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, said he wouldn’t be able to support it.
Although Workman backed the House budget bill that reduced the school funding, he said Tuesday that the House school finance bill hurts his school districts too much to get his vote.
Well that’s mighty thoughtful of him, and I’ll bet he has plenty of company in that regard, but just what exactly did Paul Workman expect when he voted to cut $7.8 billion from public education? The attitude he’s expressing here is basically “it’s all right to cut as much as needed from everyone else, just not from me”. Hey, you voted for those cuts, you live with the electoral consequences. If you don’t like what you see, you should have done something different. I have no sympathy at all, even if his dithering may work to put pressure on the Republicans to ease the pain. But let the lesson be learned: It’s easy to favor “living within our means” and “cutting spending”. It’s a lot harder to vote for cuts to your own school district.