From Texas LULAC. Also, see related story in today's Austin Am-Statesman titled, Senate Drives Education Plan Forward-Angela
Senate MAY BE MOVING AHEAD with Senate Bill 8 - Contact your Senator and urge "NO" vote on SB 8!
The Senate will convene this afternoon. In a press conference this afternoon, the Lt. Governor announced that he will seek the two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and hear SB 8, the latest Senate version of the school reform bill, tomorrow – Tuesday, August 9,2005.
If the Senate takes up SB 8 tomorrow, two-thirds of the members will be needed to suspend the necessary rules for the Senate to debate and pass the bill over to the House. Therefore, it is important that you call your State Senator now.
The price of passing the legislation outweighs the benefits. NO BILL IS STILL BETTER THAN A BAD BILL. Contact your Senator and express your opposition/concern about SB 8 and urge them to vote “NO” on any motion to suspend the rules to debate the bill on the floor.
SB 8 certainly is a better bill than SB 2 and HB 2 however, in addition to inadequate funding, we are concerned about an amendment added to the bill. An amendment by Senator Ogden was quickly and quietly added after public testimony closed last week. There was no opportunity to offer concerns about the amendment, and it has major consequences for funding equity. One observer, a former legislator, described the amendment as “potentially the most destructive re-write of school funding to be voted out of a legislative committee in thirty years.”
The amendment permits the school finance equity to vary from the 96th percentile standard that the bill supposedly guarantees. The bill will give three senators and three representatives (a majority of each session’s appropriations conference committee) the ability to re-write or individually fund, or not fund, several of the key school funding provisions. By careful manipulation, they could reward their own districts or punish the districts of other members. They could do this by using formulas that are intended to reflect cost differences that districts must pay or that partially equalize the ability of school districts to fund their programs. The only defense for changes like this would be to vote down an entire general appropriations bill, an action many legislators would be reluctant to take.
Based on the Ogden amendment alone, SB 8 has now become a real danger to the future of Texas public schools. Even if the Ogden amendment is removed on the Senate floor, the likelihood of it staying out of the bill is uncertain.
Thus, the threat remains the same:
A. The Senate passes SB 8 today and SB 8 moves and is eventually passed by the full House... the House sends back SB 8 and it's like HB 2 - a bad bill - that will only need a motion to concur or agree to the House amendments by Senator Shapiro, SB8's author and the Senate passes SB 8 by only a majority vote.
B. In the alternative, the House makes no changes to SB 8 and SB 8 - a bad bill - is sent to the Governor.
Following are the negative provisions that we understand are in this 438 page bill:
Among SB 8’s:
• Mandates that 65 percent of a district’s budget must be spent on direct instructional activity.
• Substantially complicates the accountability system.
• Provides only $0.02 local capacity for M&O local enrichment tax increases by the board without voter approval and requires voter approval for each additional increase for up to $0.15 which can be accessed at a rate of $0.05 per biennium upon approval by a majority vote.
• Includes wholesale private management company takeover of low performing public schools with little time allowed for the public schools to adequately address underlying factors resulting in performance problems.
Under the Ogden amendment, SB8 would abandon the statutory protections that guaranty a level of equity within our current system.
1. Gives three senators and three representatives (a majority of each session’s appropriations conference committee), the ability to re-write or individually fund, or not fund, several of the key school funding provisions.
2. By careful manipulation, this group could: Reward their own districts or punish the districts of other members... by using formulas that are intended to reflect cost differences that districts must pay or that partially equalize the ability of school districts to fund their programs.
3. One likely defense for future legislators would be to vote down the entire general appropriations bill.
4. Since appropriation bills invariably pass at the last moment, such a move would force a special session. And voting no on the appropriations bill would face loud objection from supporters of all of the other worthwhile programs the state budget bill must fund.
5. For school finance, the various formulas that recognize student and district cost differences and that equalize the ability of districts to raise funds produce a single sum that is the total cost of the education program.
6. Since you cannot bind future legislatures, a given legislature may under-fund that amount.
7. If they do so, however, the CURRENT law also provides that funding for all districts will be reduced equitably, so that it would cost each taxpayer in each district the same rate increase to replace those funds if they chose.
8. Furthermore, the law requires that the reduced funds be made up to the districts at the start of the next fiscal year. In essence, full formula funding is guaranteed, but a part of it can be temporarily transformed into a no-interest loan to the state.
Ogden's amendment language makes SB 8 a radical change from the current system and represents a giant step backwards in assuring necessary support for our public schools.
Among SB 8’s Provisions that are supported:
• Increases funding for the New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA) and specifically targets fast-growth districts.
• Funding for Proclamation 2002 textbooks.
• Provides state funding for any student who chooses to take college entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT.
• Institutes an end-of-course exam pilot for Algebra I and requires a study of the end-of-course exam issue over the next year.
• Guarantees a high yield in the local enrichment tier -- starting at or above the 90th percentile in 06-07, and increasing each biennium.
ACTION NEEDED: Contact your State Senator and ask them to vote no on suspension of the rules to hear SB 8. If you have concerns, it is important to express them immediately to your Senator. Please don’t wait.
1. If you DON'T KNOW who represents you in the Senate, look it up in the online at Texas Legislative Directory
2. If YOU KNOW who represents you in the Senate, take a moment to find their office phone numbers.
3. For Senators click on Senator's name in the Senate Members 79th Legislature homepage
Please call the Capitol office of your Senator, not the district office(s).