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Friday, July 29, 2005

Sen. Van de Putte Asks Community Leaders/Parents to Testify Monday

Van de Putte Asks Community Leaders/Parents to Testify Monday. The meeting will be at 10 AM Monday in Room E 1.036.

Excerpt:

Public hearings will start Monday morning on Shapiro's new school bill.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said San Antonio community leaders and parents — not only school administrators — should show up.

"What I need is for people from the business community and parents to come and say, 'Do what's right. This is not enough money.' We have not been hearing that from the public," she said.

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Senate seeking public support with new bill

Web Posted: 07/29/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Gary Scharrer
Express-News Austin Bureau

AUSTIN — Unwilling to surrender on school finance, Senate leaders will roll out a new version of an education reform bill today in hopes of catching public support before the issue dies.

(Tom Reel/Express-News) Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, relaxes as business on the House floor in Austin slows down before a lunch break Thursday.
"We'll be going back to basics," Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said Thursday night after nearly five hours of closed door meetings as the Senate struggled to keep school reform alive.

Efforts to reform public education and taxes largely deflated earlier this week when the Texas House shot down both bills in spectacular fashion that defied the will of state leaders.

Senate leaders will try to craft a bill that increases public education spending by $1.4 billion a year and that gives local school districts more discretion. School superintendents have complained of unfunded mandates in proposed reform bills.

Public hearings will start Monday morning on Shapiro's new school bill.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said San Antonio community leaders and parents — not only school administrators — should show up.

"What I need is for people from the business community and parents to come and say, 'Do what's right. This is not enough money.' We have not been hearing that from the public," she said.

Parents and others are only advocating for textbook funding and teacher pay raises, she said.

The Senate effort to write a new school bill faces long odds. The House would have to agree to concepts in the Senate approach already rejected. More importantly, the Senate plan hinges on a tax bill for which the House has shown little appetite.

Asked whether he'd seen anything to make him believe the House would pass a tax measure, House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, said, "Not at this point ... We'll keep trying, but that's where we are."

Even some senators are skeptical.

"We know how to fix the problem," said Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen. "The problem is we need more money for public education, and the (leaders) said, 'No,' so we're stuck."

Gov. Rick Perry wanted lawmakers to cut school property taxes, but the House voted 124-8 on Tuesday for a tax bill needed to finance property tax relief.

The school reform portion of the package did not include enough money to improve public education, according to many lawmakers and school groups.

The inability of lawmakers to fix the state's public school system is beginning to frustrate Texas parents and taxpayers, according to some grass-roots groups. Lawmakers have struggled unsuccessfully on school funding in four sessions.

"Parents are showing their frustration, teachers are showing their frustration and it's not about maintaining the status quo," said Anna Alicia Romero, spokeswoman for the Texas Latino Education Coalition.

The organization wants state lawmakers to make funding more equitable between property rich and poor school districts and also to increase the state's investment in public education.

"If our policy makers insist on skirting the issues of equity, not providing a classroom environment that's conducive to learning and that values all kids and if they are going to continue to punish teachers, we don't have a formula for success," Romero said. "We would rather have no bill passed than a bad bill."

The Texas House largely took that approach by throwing the summer's second special session into disarray with the resounding vote against a tax bill that Perry favored, designed primarily to increase sales and consumption taxes.

That came after House GOP leaders worked to kill a school reform bill when Democrats persuaded enough Republicans to amend it by steering more money to teacher pay and making its tax provisions friendlier to lower-and middle-income homeowners.

Although public opinion polls consistently show public support for higher teacher pay and more money for public education, state and legislative leaders have focused more on property tax cuts. Critics complain that many of the proposed reforms in the school bill would only saddle local school districts without giving them the money to pay for them.

In a guest column in the Express-News on Thursday, Devine school Superintendent Rickey Williams, a self-described Republican, said his "party has become the enemy of public education in Texas."

gscharrer@express-news.net

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA072905.1B.school_finance.1cede2b2.html

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