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What $9.8 Billion in Public School Cuts Looks Like

School districts won't know exactly what nearly $10 billion in state cuts means to them until lawmakers pass a new school finance bill. Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune takes a look at the first bill of the session that gives districts an idea of what to expect.

State Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, discusses the details of two school finance measures on March 8, 2011.

When lawmakers file a school finance bill, they publish a spreadsheet showing how the new funding formulas affect each of the state's more than 1,000 school districts. This year, with a proposed budget that currently cuts $9.8 billion from public schools, no such spreadsheets have been published.

That's, in part, why state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, has filed a series of school finance bills — so lawmakers will know what to expect before voting on the state budget.

Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools," Hochberg said. "But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars" per weighted student out of their local district.

Hochberg's bill, though, won't likely make it to the House floor (odds are on Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler's), and he freely admits he doesn't like his own legislation.

"Given the drastic effects on many district as a results of the budget cuts, I truly hope this bill is a starting line, not a finish line," Hochberg said. "This is not a bill I would like to vote for as currently drawn."

Hochberg's per-district calculations aren't out just yet, but the new funding formulas would increase the number of so-called Robin Hood school districts, wealthy districts whose funding is partially redistributed to poorer districts, and increase the amount taken from existing Robin Hood districts.

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