Friday, February 18, 2005

Dems react to HB 2, fight over funding numbers

Yesterday morning, members of the House's Mexican American Legislative caucus (MALC) held a press conference to bash HB 2, the controversial public education bill filed by Ken Grusendorf (read more on HB 2).

First, they discussed the amount of money going to schools under the proposed funding model. Grusendorf has argued that $3 billion in new money will be placed in schools, and this new money would compensate for drastic cuts to Robin Hood. However, members of MALC pointed to the fiscal note written by the Legislative Budget Board on HB 2 that said state money going to HB 2 would total $12.4 billion for the 2006-2007 biennium; however, "Of that total, nearly $11 billion is the direct result of lowering to $1.00 the local property tax. The remaining $1.5 billion is net new revenue to school districts."

Hey Kent, $1.5 billion ≠ $3 billion.

Second, MALC addressed the equity gap since HB 2 calls for cutting Robin Hood by nearly 90 percent. The Quorum Report reported that "he said that 'without a doubt' HB 2 represents the most equitable system that has been seriously considered by the state." However, Pat Haggerty (R-El Paso) and MALC member also spoke at the press conference addressed the 2003 funding cuts and claimed that considering those cuts, "public education gets $398 million less" from HB 2.

Haggerty pointed to a $700 million cut in Active School Employee Health Care, a $123 million undercount in weighted ADA, a $5 million cut in Advanced Placement programs, and a $25 billion cut in Basic Skills programs.

"All these things were cut last session," Haggerty said. "They are now saying they are going to put new money in to help students. Actually, all they are putting back in is what they took out last time."

The Austin American-Statesman reports that HB 2 would also impose a cap 35 percent on the amount of money wealthy districts send to the state government for redistribution; rich districts like Highland Park in Dallas would see a 52 percent increase of funding - since it currently sends 70 percent, or double the cap, to the state for redistribution.

The article also draws attention to many districts that have a small number of students but have big property values stemming from "oil fields, power plants or other features that drive up values" that are located in those districts. How much money would these areas save from HB 2?


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