Back to Education Finance Reform

Updated: No education special, but interim committee called

Rep. Donna Howard: Austin Democrat gets to help on school finance
Rep. Donna Howard: Austin Democrat gets to help on school finance (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Gov. Rick Perry may have squelched calls for a special session on education finance reform, so Texas lawmakers are settling for the next best thing: A 22 member joint interim committee on how badly last session's Shapiro/Eissler compromise screwed public school coffers.

Knowing how bad a mess they had made of things, lawmakers included the committee in Senate Bill 1. The committee is charged with a "comprehensive study of the public school finance system in Texas and [making] recommendations to the 83rd Legislature."

The one potential bright spot is Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, R-Killeen, as chair. With finance expert Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, already effectively out the door, his close ally Aycock is the next best thing. Also, better him than House Public Education chair Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who is responsible for 50% of the lousy legislation currently in place.

Bad news? Senate Education chair Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chairs the Senate side. Hard to not think that Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would have been a better choice. Even though his name is on the horrible budget that was passed, there was a lot of scuttlebutt that his hands were tied by Perry's abortive presidential plans and Shapiro's stillborn US Senate ambitions. In fact, Ogden spent much of last session warning that the budget would "decimate" school finance and he even wanted to tap the Rainy Day Fund. In January he joined the chorus calling for an education special between the primaries (whenever they are) and the general election.

As for the part breakdown, only four of the 11 senators are Democrats, but there's a slightly better showing on the House side with five members.

Update 11:25am, March 3: Just got off the phone with Austin Democrat and committee appointee Rep. Donna Howard, who said that she has no specific details about the committee charges, the agenda or the first meeting date. In fact, she said there had been "some doubt" prior to this announcement that the committee would ever meet "because of all the lawsuits." She added, that she was "very hopeful that we'll have some real discussions. … We have to find sustainable sources of revenue in order to maintain what everyone seems to want, which is an educated workforce pipe line."

However, without naming names she warned that "with such a large committee, and with so many people who were invested in what's in place, I don't know."

However, it's not just the authors of the current system that have a sense of history here. In a press release Sen. Leticia van de Putte, D-San Antonio, wryly observed, "With Edgewood ISD (the plaintiff in the landmark Edgewood v. Kirby lawsuit) in my district, I've had to learn a thing or two about school finance. I'll be glad to put that knowledge to good use."

Senate
Florence Shapiro, R-Plano
Bob Deuell, R-Greenville
Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock
Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen
Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound
Dan Patrick, R-Houston
Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo
Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio
Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio
Royce West, D-Dallas
Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.

House

Chair: Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen
Alma Allen, D-Houston
Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas
Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands
Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City
Donna Howard, D-Austin
Dan Huberty, R-Houston
Susan King, R-Abilene
Todd Smith, R-Euless
Vicki Truitt, R-Keller
Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Legislature, School Finance, Interim, Rob Eissler, Florence Shapiro, Donna Howard, Jimmy Don Aycock, Scott Hochberg

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