School Finance Pops Up in House Committee
So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?
Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.
Hochberg's attempt to make the cuts work more fairly for all districts would strip districts of some special funding allotments, like Gifted and Talented and extra money for High Schools. It also cuts the amount of money each district spends per students. But, Hochberg told the committee, "Given the level of funding, this or something close to this, is the fairest way I can come up with to distribute the pain."
This bill may not be the school finance bill that makes it to the House floor. But some kind of bill must come up for a vote. Current law says if the state underfunds the school funding formulas, as the House budget does, the state must repay that shortfall on top of whatever the state needs to spend to fully fund those formulas in the next budget. The idea of having to add another $7.8 billion to school funding next session didn't excite any of the committee members.
Hochberg also laid out a second bill in committee that would allow local school districts to raise property taxes to make up any shortfall in school funds without needing an election to get approval. He says some districts may have to raise school property tax rates by 40 cents to make up that difference.