State parks are not the only thing that the Texas legislature has squandered due to neglectthe public education system is another. After innumerable special sessions over the last few years, the legislature still has not been able to figure out how to adequately fund them. And now they are trying again. Well, not really. But they are making a show of it, anyway.
The situation is quite confusing, and I have struggled to make sense of it in the nearly eight years I've lived here. Only recently do I feel I have gained even a rudimentary understanding.
Carlos Guerra, fortunately, provides some helpful background in a column in today's Express-News. He sums up the current special session at the end, writing:
When the Texas Supreme Court [last year] ruled that the local property taxes had become an unconstitutional state property tax, and that school districts had no meaningful discretion in spending local money, many lawmakers cheered that the ruling would force compromise.What I still don't understand is how an urgent, court-ordered need to fund schools has been transformed by our do-nothing GOP governor, Rick Perry, into a special session devoted solely to reducing property taxes.
So on Monday, lawmakers convened for the sixth time [since 2003] to fix school funding. The governor ordered them to consider legislation "that provides for school district relief" by modifying the franchise tax, the motor vehicle sales tax and the tobacco tax. But all of the modifications will go solely to lowering property taxes.
There also is widespread speculation that with elections looming, lawmakers will dip deeply into the state's surplus to avoid making hard decisions — and the possibility of offending powerful interests.
Worse is that there are no plans for providing the additional state money needed to improve schools to acceptable levels, or even to adequately fund the added costs for schooling Texas' rapidly growing special-needs enrollment.
Worst of all is that the plan is for a quick, short-term solution.