Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Editorial: Don't Expect Miracle on Public Education

Web Posted: 05/17/2005 12:00 AM CDT
San Antonio Express-News

Trying to keep up with education and tax reform efforts in the Texas Legislature is like riding a bucking bronco or attempting to jump on a moving train.

In all three cases, the chances are great for getting left behind in the dust.

While there is agreement that education and taxation in the state require greater equity, there is no clear consensus about how to accomplish both tasks.

And, unfortunately, the need to properly fund education clashes with the Legislature's desire to lower property taxes and avoid other tax increases as much as possible.

That's the situation as differing versions of legislation passed by the House and the Senate head for the conference committee that has the task of reconciling the efforts.

After seeing what the House had produced, we held out hopes that the Senate would arrive at better results. But a statewide property tax that held the potential of more equitable education funding went by the wayside in the Senate. Thus, differences between the two were not so great after all.

Even if legislative leaders pass variations of House Bill 2 and House Bill 3, the education and tax reform bills, this session, they do not provide a meaningful comprehensive reform or a long-term solution to the problems that have bedeviled Texas for a decade or more.

They offer short-term solutions held together with chewing gum and baling wire.

The basic Robin Hood system remains in place, although it affects fewer school districts.

Although property taxes would be cut, less by the Senate bill than by the House version, additional funding for education would come through raising a variety of other taxes, including the cigarette tax and sales tax. Some new form of business tax is inevitable as well.

The smoke won't clear until legislation emerges from conference. Meanwhile, the bronco continues bucking and the train rolls on.

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