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Late Homework

The deadline for approving bills in the House came and went this week without a vote on Rep. Scott Hochberg's school finance legislation. Meanwhile, in the upper chamber, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is struggling to find one more Democrat to get her proposal heard.

The deadline for approving bills in the House came and went this week without a vote on Rep. Scott Hochberg's school finance legislation. Meanwhile, in the upper chamber, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, is struggling to find one more Democrat to get her proposal heard.

That means the best shot for legislation distributing what could be close to $8 billion in cuts to public education will be as an amendment to a fiscal matters bill.

The bills are having difficulty for the same reason: They've earned the opposition of a vocal faction in the education community.

Shapiro's problem is with the poorer districts. They argue that it does too little to address the inequities in the current system, and that it starts cutting from the bottom up to avoid big cuts in wealthier districts. For Hochberg's plan, the opposition is from the wealthy districts. His measure would increase the amount of their local revenue subject to recapture by the state. And it saddles them with a higher share of the reductions in order to shield poorer districts from the worst of the cuts. (That will change if and when the bill hits the floor as an amendment: Hochberg says he's modifying that so no district has more than a 10 percent reduction.)

The budget proposals from both chambers are contingent on the passage of a school finance bill. But lawmakers could easily strip those provisions in conference committee — setting themselves up for a special session just to deal with reworking school funding formulas.

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