Thursday, May 04, 2006

Public Education Advocate's Report

Walked into work and was going to do a quick post on what happend yesterday (Eye On Williamson County did a great job yesterday and Philip Martin has a fantastic letter at BOR). As I was looking up all the foolish things the legislature I get an e-mail.

It appears Deece Eckstein and People For the American Way, spent some time and mapped out what they did wrong yesterday and what they need to do to help average Texans.

Today’s Bottom Line –
House members should vote NO on concurrence with House Bill 2 as it came over from the Senate.

Senate Finance Committee members need to fend off attacks on equity, sweetheart deals for wealthy school districts, and efforts to undermine local control and fiscal discipline by privatizing public education.

  • CSHB 2 comes to the House floor today. It dedicates all future revenues from the new “margins tax” on business, the “liar’s affidavit” fix on used car sales, and the tax on cigarettes exclusively to property tax reduction. It was a bad idea in the House. Even though it was modified in the Senate, it’s still a bad idea.
  • CSHB 2 ties the hands of future legislatures, no matter what emergencies or unmet needs may befall the state. If this had been in effect last summer, Governor Perry would not have been able to marshal Texas resources in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • CSHB 2 leaves higher education, transportation, health care and other areas of the state budget starving for air while a miniscule percentage of Texans sees their property taxes drop even further.
  • Message to House members: vote NO on CSHB 2.
  • The Senate Finance Committee has taken House Bill 1, which was a bad idea and made it worse. Finance Committee members need to “fix it or kill it.” How do you fix it?
  • Preserve equity. CSHB 1 is a full-frontal assault on fairness and equity in our public schools. For years, our school finance system has been based on a simple principle: my dollar of taxes will buy the same education for my kids as anyone else’s dollar of taxes. The attack on equity is coming in two forms:
    • Under Senator Shapiro’s proposal, a small number of school districts will be able to keep excessive revenues generated from lower property taxes rather than contributing to the common good.
    • So-called “incentive” programs for high school enrollment, teacher pay, and the like will benefit a few school districts and leave most neighborhood schools underfunded.
  • Don’t play games with educators. CSHB 1 promises a pay raise to teachers, but does not give them enough to recover from cuts over the last three years. Plus, it takes away health benefits from 300,000 school support staff like cafeteria workers and janitors.
  • Maintain local control. CSHB 1 proposes to turn schools over to private, for-profit companies that will “manage” the schools. If you think HMOs have made your health care better, you’ll love this idea!
  • Support real accountability. Focus on student achievement, not on teaching to the tests. For instance, eliminate the provision tying a school’s funding to English immersion programs, which sacrifice overall education for “gaming” yet another standardized test.
Message to Senators: “Fix it or kill it.”


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