Maybe state Rep. Gilbert Pena of Pasadena knows more about the state of education in Texas than educators do, but I doubt it, particularly when he makes a statement like this: “I feel that schools get more than enough funding.”
Yes, that is what he said, quoted in the Houston Chronicle story linked below, when a reporter asked him about education funding in a state that spends about $2,700 less per student than the national average, ranks near the bottom in that category and has thousands of overcrowded classrooms. Pena also wants to squeeze school district budgets even more by eliminating the business franchise tax, a major source of state funding for education, which he voted to reduce last year.
Pena also criticized the Robin Hood law that requires property wealthy school districts to share their tax revenue with poorer districts. But he is part of the problem with this outdated law that now threatens to take tens of millions of dollars from Houston ISD’s budget, even though most of the district’s students are low-income and in need of more classroom resources.
Robin Hood should be replaced, but it is still on the books because the governor and members of the legislative majority, including Pena, refuse to enact a new school finance plan that adequately and fairly funds all of Texas’ public schools.
Pena has been in the Legislature only one session, but it is time for the voters of District 144 to retire him and return his opponent, former Rep. Mary Ann Perez, to Austin. TSTA is supporting Mary Ann because as a House member she was a strong advocate for public schools and voted in 2013 to restore much of the school funding that had been cut in 2011.
Unlike Pena, Mary Ann gets it. She understands that educators and school children need more than plaudits and pats on the back. They need adequate financial support, and she will work to get it.