A key House Republican says Texas lawmakers should not wait for the outcome of a sprawling school finance lawsuit to discuss changes to the state's current public education funding system.
"While we do not know the final outcome of the school finance lawsuit, I believe it is appropriate to foster broad conversations on this matter while awaiting the final decision," Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, said in a memo circulated to colleagues Monday.
More than 600 Texas school districts filed litigation challenging the state's school finance system after lawmakers slashed more than $5 billion from the public education budget in 2011. A Travis County district judge ruled in their favor in August — saying the way the state distributes money to districts is unconstitutional because of both inadequate and unequal funding. The state has appealed the lawsuit to the Texas Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case this year.
In the memo, Aycock asked for the input of House lawmakers on a "very rough initial bill" that he intended to be a "conversation starter."
His proposal, House Bill 654, would simplify the school funding mechanism by grouping the state's 1,026 regular school districts into at least 30 "school finance districts," which would provide per-student funding that is within $30o of the statewide average.
"I am not even confident that I like this concept," Aycock said. "The unfortunate truth is that with each passing lawsuit, the Legislature is forced into more and more convoluted decisions in our effort to balance constitutional requirements, court mandates, and limited resources."