Texas school finance reform What's Your Point? May 25,2017

What's Your Point?  May 25,2017 Part 2

Today's panelists: Bob Price,m associate editor of Breitbart Texas; Tomaro Bell, Houston neighborhood leader, Jeremy Desel, acclaimed reporter and now leader of Word-Vision Media; Bill King, former Mayor of Kemah, attorney and columnist; Deric Muhammad, community activist; Jessica Colon, Republican strategist. join Greg Groogan to discuss today's topics

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A standoff between Texas' Republican-majority House and Senate over a modest school voucher program has killed a bipartisan, $1.6 billion plan to begin overhauling the troubled way the state pays for public education.

The funding proposal sought to provide a roadmap to fixing school finance, an issue that the House has tried to address for years. The Senate injected one of its top priorities: vouchers offering state funding to children attending private and religious schools.

Those differences buried one of the legislative session's most-watched bills - meaning lawmakers will adjourn Monday without getting a school finance fix nor vouchers.

Texas educates around 5.3 million public school students, more than any state except California. It relies on a "Robin Hood" funding scheme where school districts in wealthy areas share property tax revenue they collect with poorer counterparts. The Legislature frequently cuts classroom budgets so deeply that school districts sue.

But no school finance changes are legally required this session because Texas' Supreme Court ruled last summer that the system was minimally constitutional, though flawed.

In April, the House nonetheless passed a school finance package that would increase annual, per-student funding about $210 to $5,350, while raising state spending for school district transportation and educating dyslexic students. The Senate, after 1 a.m. on Monday, rolled the plan back to about $500 million in total costs and offered some special education students taxpayer-subsidized vouchers worth about $8,300 per year to attend private or religious schools.

Sponsored by the head of the Senate Education Committee, Republican Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, the Senate version was designed for only about 6,000 special education students maximum to be eligible. But opponents argued that once Texas starts using public money to fund private schools, the program will expand exponentially, as voucher plans have in other states.

That prompted the House on Wednesday to vote 134-15 to go to conference committee and try to reach a deal. Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican who heads the House Public Education Committee, said he wasn't ready to give up even though the Senate's actions "made virtually impossible for us to come to some meaningful financial reform on school finance."

Hours later, the Senate refused to go to conference committee.

"Although Texas House leaders have been obstinate and closed-minded on this issue throughout this session, I was hopeful when we put this package together last week that we had found an opening that would break the logjam," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the state Senate, said in a statement. "I was wrong. House Bill 21 is now dead."

It was Senate payback for the House, which, while devising its version of the state budget, voted 103-43 to declare that public funding should stay with public schools - similar to stances it has taken in previous sessions. House Democrats despise vouchers and they have traditionally been joined by rural Republicans who fear hurting public schools that are the lifeblood of the small communities they represent.

That budget vote effectively killed a much larger voucher plan Taylor spent months shepherding through the Senate that died in the House without even reaching the floor. Now, a school finance bill Huberty worked just as hard on is just as dead.

"What do you negotiate?" Taylor said Wednesday when asked why he didn't support going to conference committee. "It's a package deal and they already said they're not going to take one part of the package."