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Senate Finance Committee Eases Budget Cuts

A state senate committee approved a smaller cut in education spending in the new state budget.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News.
A state senate committee approved a smaller cut in education spending in the new state budget.

The Senate Finance Committee added $5.7 billion to its budget proposal today.  The adjustment was approved with a 13-2 vote.

Just yesterday, the House Appropriations committee $8 billion in education cuts.

In anticipation of the cuts in state support for education, school districts have already begun laying off teachers but legislators are still tinkering with measures that could avoid massive layoffs statewide.

Here’s a rundown of what’s included in the Senate proposal:

  • $400 million in grants for college readiness, pre-kindergarten, interventions with struggling schools, and educator accountability.
  • The Windham School District, a school system for prison inmates, will continue to be funded, but faces a $17 million cut.
  • Funding for full-day pre-kindergarten programs will be eliminated, though half-day child services will be continued.

However, aside from $2 billion in dedicated lottery funds, it’s unclear where all the new money will come from. That will become a lot clearer when senators begin working on the school finance bill, which ultimately develops the formulas for how school districts are funded.
The Subcommittee also recommended revising a law passed in the last session that would require teachers to be paid at least $800 more than the 2009-10 school year.      

Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) remained skeptical about the budget, but voted in favor of the measure.

“The Senate budget is better, but it ain’t where we need to be given the fact that that we should be appropriating to our school districts over $42 billion,” said West.

Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) whose Finance Subcommittee on Education developed the budget proposal, recommended reducing funding to wealthier school districts while stabilizing poorer ones.

“Every district get’s a shave," Shapiro said, "but the target revenue districts get a hair cut. ”

With dramatically different budget proposals being worked out in the House and Senate, we’re likely to see some drama when the final document gets worked out.

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