TSTA testimony on SB 1

We at TSTA know that you already have spent long weeks drafting a new state budget. But, as we also know, your job isn’t over yet. That’s why you are here considering Senate Bill 1. 

Senate Bill 1 gives you another opportunity to do what is right for the school children and taxpayers of Texas. It gives you another opportunity to plug some gaping holes in House Bill 1, holes that will cut deeply into critical state services. House Bill 1, the appropriations bill passed during the regular session, slashes some $4 billion from school finance formulas, counting enrollment growth, making it, in our view, the worst public education budget in at least 27 years. It has been that long since the Legislature failed to fully fund formulas and enrollment growth. 

TSTA urges you to use Senate Bill 1 to appropriate new revenue, starting with the $6 billion that is still sitting in the Rainy Day Fund. That money belongs to the taxpayers, and we believe most taxpayers don’t want that money sitting in the bank while important public services are being cut. We believe they would rather see that money spent to save teachers’ jobs, save the quality learning environments in their children’s classrooms and save health care programs for low-income school children. 

Additional appropriations from the Rainy Day Fund also will make revised school finance payments to your local school districts less painful, both for you and your local school boards. 

TSTA believes the Legislature also needs to raise new tax revenue and should start by examining existing tax exemptions and tax breaks to determine if they have outlived their usefulness. We know this step may have to begin in the House, but we also know that senators are not without influence. 

As all of you know, the budget bill from the regular session failed to cure a $10 billion “structural deficit” in the public education budget resulting from the 2006 school finance law. That problem, regardless of how much you might try to ignore or disguise it, is not going away. 

TSTA supports the provision in Senate Bill 1 that temporarily delays Foundation School payments to school districts. That tool has been used with success during previous budgetary crunches, and it is acceptable now. But you need more than accounting tools to truly fix the new state budget.