At Thursday’s TribLive conversation, hosted by the Texas Tribune, Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) responded to questions regarding school finance, including their response to the trial and their views on the budget cuts from last session. The 7 minute video clip gives a great deal of perspective on what two of the most influential legislators think on this topic.
State of the State
Governor Perry delivered his State of the State Address on Tuesday, reporting that “our State is stronger than ever.” He spoke of his support for stronger spending limits and tax relief, which he encouraged citizens to submit ideas for on his website. He also stated that he supported the use of $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in infrastructure for items like water and transportation.
In regards to education, Governor Perry praised the progress schools are making and then said that “the way forward must involve more public charter schools, which offer parents a tuition-free alternative to their neighborhood school.” He went on further to say, “It’s also time to introduce scholarship programs that give students a choice, especially those who are locked into low-performing schools.” Governor Perry also expressed support for greater flexibility in high school coursework that prepares students for a variety of goals without sacrificing rigorous academic standards.
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams addressed those attending the TASA Mid-Winter Conference on Tuesday afternoon. The Commissioner spent the majority of his comments focused on praising the state’s educational system and addressing the topic of accountability. On the topic of funding, he praised the Legislature for providing funding for enrollment growth and increased professional development, but said that any conversations about sums of money greater than that would have to wait until after litigation is closed. Following a standing ovation for one administrator’s plea for the Commissioner to support the restoration of funding cuts for schools, Commissioner Williams said that it behooves the state to wait until the court makes a determination on the topics of adequacy and equity. He emphasized that he can’t have a conversation about this until after the Supreme Court rules.
Senate Education hearings
The Senate Education Committee has now conducted its first two hearings. On Monday, the committee focused on the topic of school safety. Then, on Thursday, they turned their attention to the CSPOPE curriculum management program which has sparked some controversy. The committee also voted their first bill out of committee; Senate Bill 135, which would repeal the requirement that 15% of student’s course grades be determined by their performance on state end-of-course exams.