School Finance

Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Texas Senate Committee on Education today talked about possible funding options to promote school choice.

Lawmakers want to know if having more school options will create competition and, in turn, make all schools in the state better. One option to encourage school choice is a so-called taxpayer savings grant program. The idea was proposed in the Texas Legislature last year as part of House Bill 33. It would pay up to 60 percent of the amount that the state spends per pupil each year on school maintenance and operations for private school tuition – that’d be about $5,200.

Joe Bast is the President and CEO of the Heartland Institute – a non-profit research center based in Chicago. He looked at the numbers and believes many Texas families would take advantage of the option and that it would save taxpayers a big chuck of money right away.

flickr.com/wenews

Planned Parenthood

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that Texas can stop funding Planned Parenthood under the state’s Women’s Health Program – at least until a full trial in October.

Planned Parenthood had obtained an injunction that prevented the state from cutting off funding before the trial. But the three-judge panel lifted the injunction.

After the ruling, Governor Rick Perry released a statement that said, in part:

“The 5th Circuit’s decision is a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life. We will continue to work with Attorney General Abbott in the fight to defend our state laws.”

Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/jesabele

A judge has been named to hear several lawsuits brought by school districts against the State of Texas, to protest the way public education is funded.

Judge John Dietz, of the 250th Judicial District Civil Court in Travis County, will preside over the suits. The news was trumpeted by the Equity Center, a coalition of several poorer school districts. An Equity Center offshoot, the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition sued the state last year alleging Texas’ system of school funding was unconstitutional. As the coalition wrote in a complaint, “Taxpayers in low wealth districts who are willing to tax themselves at the highest rates allowed are unable to access the same dollars for education as taxpayers in high wealth districts who tax themselves at a lower rate.”

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin and Round Rock school districts have joined more than sixty school districts responsible for educating 1.5 million children in the fourth recent lawsuit against the state over its school finance system. With one-third of Texas’ student population, it’s the largest group of school districts ever to file suit against the state over how it funds education, according to plaintiff attorneys Thompson and Horton.

“The group represents rural, big town, small town, suburban, urban, fast growth, property poor, property wealthy, and average wealth districts,” the law firm wrote in a news release.

AISD trustees voted to join the lawsuit in October. The suit says the state has increased the academic requirements for school districts, but failed to provide funding to pay for it.

Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Parents whose children attend Joslin Elementary marched around the school in South Austin Saturday to urge Austin school board members to keep it open.  Such rallies are becoming the norm for Austin weekends, at least since the AISD Facilities Task Force released initial options for closing schools. Thirteen schools were named, but the task force is doing things differently now. It's no longer naming schools.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

An AP investigation published in several papers this morning found that dozens of "property-wealthy" school districts held on to money they were supposed to send to the state under the so-called Robin Hood law.

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