Dave McNeely: Will Texas lawmakers invest or cut taxes?

As the Texas Legislature kicked off its 140-day regular biennial session, the state’s top three leaders were touting the same message: Texas ain’t Washington.

Republican Joe Straus, just re-elected to a third term as House speaker, bragged that, “In the Texas House, we don’t put the Republicans on one side of the room and the Democrats on the other.”

Unlike Washington, “we work with our colleagues, regardless of party,” said Straus, who became speaker in 2009 with near-unanimous Democratic help to oust Republican predecessor Tom Craddick.

Dewhurst: Put Some Money Aside for School Lawsuits

by Ross Ramsey and Aman Batheja January 10, 2013 The Texas Legislature should prepare for a probable negative judgment in its ongoing school finance lawsuits by socking away money in the next budget to comply with a future court order, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday. “I think you have to hold some of it back […]

Austin superintendent testifies in ongoing school finance trial

Austin school district Superintendent Meria Carstarphen on Monday swatted down arguments from a state lawyer that the district had ample financial wiggle room to deal with its share of the $5.4 billion budget cuts enacted by the Legislature last year.

During testimony in the ongoing school finance trial, Carstarphen said the district has been doing its best given the changing student demographics, including more students with limited English skills, at a time of increasing state academic standards.

Expert: Schools need additional $6 billion a year to meet higher standards

Testimony in school finance trial shows low-income students far behind on new tests.

Texas school districts need an additional $6 billion a year to get students up to the high academic standards lawmakers have put in place, a school finance expert testified on Monday during the ongoing trial.

“I don’t believe that we’re going to close educational gaps and reach … college and career (readiness) without spending additional money,” said Lynn Moak, a consultant who has testified at all six school finance trials in Texas.

Texas school districts spent a total of $43.1 billion for operating cost in 2010-11, the school year before the Legislature enacted $2.5 billion in education cuts. Moak estimated that in addition to restoring the cuts, schools would need an additional $6 billion to boost the performance of low-income students and English-language learners, in particular.

Editorial: Schools have strong funding case

The state’s latest school finance lawsuit is only into its first week of hearings, but this much already is clear: Poor and wealthy districts aren’t fighting each other. They are united in protesting that lawmakers aren’t adequately funding Texas schools. It is not often that you see rich and poor districts partnering in a school finance case.

Equally compelling is that suburban, urban and rural districts are making the same funding point. So are charter schools. In fact, most corners of Texas are saddling up together in this suit, in which the main contention is that legislators aren’t meeting their constitutional duty to provide resources for a decent education.

The plaintiffs have on their side the massive $5.4 billion cut that legislators took out of school budgets during the 2011 Legislature. Plus, the state has limited local districts’ ability to raise funds. In 2006, legislators put an arbitrary cap on the rate districts can charge property-tax payers without calling an election to go beyond the ceiling.

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