A couple of weeks ago, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson announced the formation of a working group that supposedly will find a “better” way to pay for Texas’ public schools. Don’t hold your breath, though.
If it does anything, the new study group will continue to shortchange public education while increasing the burden on local property taxpayers, who already pay for more than half of public school costs.
If you think my conclusion is unfair and too hastily drawn, consider this. Only a week after announcing the new school funding study, the same Sen. Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed a bill to gradually reduce and abolish within 10 years the business franchise tax, a major source of school funding. This plan, of course, also has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Since Nelson has announced no replacement for the franchise tax, its demise would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to pay for the increase in education funding that school children need, even while leaning more heavily on local taxpayers.
Led by Patrick and Nelson, the Senate majority is about squeezing and privatizing public schools, not about finding a more adequate and fairer way to pay for them. Remember, Texas spends about $2,700 less than the national average to educate a child each year, and Patrick, the Senate leader, wants to make that worse by diverting millions in tax dollars for private school vouchers.
The phasing out of the franchise tax – and with it a sizable chunk of school funding – was promptly endorsed by the Texas Association of Business, which apparently figures the Tooth Fairy is going to find a way to help local taxpayers keep educating the state’s future workforce.
When Nelson announced the school finance “study,” – the umpteenth study of school funding to be initiated over the past 30 years – school finance expert Lynn Moak told the Texas Tribune that the main question is “whether they’re trying to reform school finance within existing dollars or looking for possible additional dollars to fund the system.”
Now, it seems the answer to that question is less money for education, not more.
Texas’ school children don’t need another study of school funding. They need Senate leaders who really value public education.