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Texas legislators seek more money for schoolss but no mention of more accountability

Posted July 17

— The special session of the 85th Texas Legislature begins on Tuesday and one of the most hot button topics on the agenda will be school funding and how to pay for it. The debate is an internal struggle between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives who differ widely on the subject, but there is more to the story than meets the eye.

It was last week when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick laid out his plan to fix the problem with his version of a solution. Patrick even resorted to making the House version as a sort of "Ponzie Scheme." This is not the first time that the term has been thrown around in this session. House republicans used the term back in regular session when the lower chamber had serious disagreements over the state's 2 year budget. But this time, it is different because when the legislature returns for the overtime period the time on the clock will be much shorter and the action more furious. There should be little time for arguing and name calling-but when has that ever bothered the Texas legislature?

The plan that Patrick laid outlast week would give $600-$1,000 bonuses to long term and retired teachers. Under his plan, $200 million dollars would go towards the teacher's retirement fund, $150 million dollars to small, rural districts and $60 million dollars would go towards fast growing districts and charter schools in the state. Initially, the funds needed for Patrick's plan would come from money taken from managed care organizations. That course would last for 2 years and then, the money would have to come from the state lottery. But, that comes with a risk-Texas voters would have to approve furthering the course by voting for an amendment to the constitution in order to keep the flow going. As it stands today, 27% of lottery proceeds go towards education.

Now that all sounds great to fund pay increases for teachers in Texas, especially down at the local level in places such as Burnet, Texas where the base average salary for teachers stands at $47, 515.00 per year. That number is $4,376.00 per year less than the state average in Texas.

With all of that money being talked about by the Texas legislature, taxpayers must wonder if what systems of accountability are going to be in place for the money that would be spent?

In Burnet for instance, 56.5% of the 3,132 students are identifiable as economically disadvantaged and to make matters worse, only 23% of students were college ready in English and math during the 2015-2016 school year, according to data collected from the Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news and data organization in Texas. The statewide average for college readiness in English and math is 35% and here in Burnet, 23% seems to be an acceptable number to many parents who seem as if this has just become the accepted norm in places like Burnet.

In 2015-2016 Burnet Consolidated ISD had 3,132 students enrolled in their district. 2,080 of those students identified as being white, 929 identified as Hispanic and only 40 students identified as African American. Regardless of the demographics, the numbers are shocking and seemingly accepted, and the idea that children in places like Burnet will continue to suffer.

As the legislature screams for more money in an attempt to seemingly only win votes the children will continue to suffer. The problem is that taxpayers are about to be asked to foot the bill for salary increases and more funding, but there is no talk from the republican controlled legislature about district and educator accountability in exchange for $700 million dollars.


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