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The Brief: House Panels Shine Spotlight on Education Funding

The state's system of funding public schools was in the spotlight on Wednesday as lawmakers examined ways to fix the complex formulas of paying to educate public school students.

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The Big Conversation

The state's complex system of funding public schools was in the spotlight on Wednesday as the Texas House's budget writing committee and panel with oversight of public education examined ways to fix how the state pays to educate students.

The committees' chairmen offered their conclusion that the best way to rebuild the state’s school finance system is to increase the “basic allotment,” or the base amount of money given to each district per student. Currently, the state’s wealthier districts are required to send money to the state to help poorer ones to survive, under a more than 20-year-old system of recapturing and redistributing local property tax dollars better known as Robin Hood. Increasing the basic allotment — which is currently around $5,140 per student — could help ease funding inequities and lower the amount of money the state is required to send to a small number of school districts every year.

Officials from various school districts also warned against allowing a “hold harmless” funding provision to expire next September. The loss of the provision, which requires the state to make up the difference if school districts lose per-student funding, could cost about 175 districts roughly $225 million.

As the Tribune’s Kiah Collier reports, a big question remains over whether the Legislature will provide the recommended funding for schools next session. During the hearing, Austin Democratic lawmaker Donna Howard, who chairs an appropriations subcommittee on public education funding, said, “We have more of a challenge coming up this time” but “there are some things we can do to make [the school finance system] more equitable.” Howard suggested that the state return revenue from school property value increases to public schools.

Trib Must Reads

As University of Houston Rises, Black Enrollment FallsMatthew Watkins — At the University of Houston, enrollment is up 18 percent since 2009-10. But black enrollment is down 17 percent. 

UT Regent Hall Appeals to Texas Supreme Court in Fight With Chancellor, by Matthew Watkins — University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall has filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court to get access to confidential student records that UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven has denied him.

Texas Law Requires High Schools To Register Students To Vote. Many Don't, by Jim Malewitz — A longstanding Texas law requires high schools to register eligible students to vote. It appears that many are flouting it.   

Texas Lawmakers Criticize Border Surge For Moving Crime but Not Stopping It, by Julián Aguilar — Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state lawmakers that the $800 million border surge has made two counties safer. But he conceded that the rest of the border is more vulnerable.

Democratic National Committee Expands Presence in Texas, by Patrick Svitek — The Democratic National Committee is expanding its presence in Texas as polls continue to show a closer-than-usual presidential race in the solidly red state. 

Texans in Congress Help Override Obama's Veto of 9/11 Bill, by Abby Livingston — Members of Congress — including many Texans — delivered Wednesday what might be the largest legislative blow that President Obama's administration has received. 

EPA Proposes to Remove Toxic Waste Near San Jacinto River, by Jim Malewitz — Federal environmental regulators have proposed to remove 202,000 cubic yards of toxic waste that has festered for more than half a century along the San Jacinto River.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Committee on Appropriations will meet jointly with the House Committee on Public Education to consider charges related to school finance including, specifically school facilities.

•    The House Committee on Pensions will hold a morning hearing at the University of Texas at Arlington to evaluate the investment performance benchmarks utilized by the state's pension funds and analyze the fee structure and investment strategy for various investment classes.

•    The Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief will will hear invited, resource and public testimony on the property tax process and ways to promote transparency during a morning hearing in Houston. 


(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Trump sets Oct. 11 for 2nd S.A. campaign visit, San Antonio Express-News

Audit shows holes in Austin police complaint process, Austin American-Statesman

Authorities: Suspect in Georgetown kidnapping was deported 3 times, Austin American-Statesman

OPEC deal could boost Houston drillers, economyHouston Chronicle 

Why is special education enrollment so low in Dallas? Superintendent Hinojosa wants to know, The Dallas Morning News

Massive Texas district isn't big enough for either candidate, The Associated Press

GOP’s Lujan battles for House re-election, San Antonio Express-News

Dallas Fed: The oil and gas industry is emerging from the bust, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

"What I decided and what I announced last week is what my conscience leads me to in November. I'm going to vote for the Republican nominee, for Donald Trump. I stood on stage, I raised my hand and said I would support the Republican nominee. My conscience tells me I need to honor my word, so I'm doing that."

— U.S. Sen Ted Cruz on "The Joe Pags Show" in an interview Wednesday on his speech at the Republican National Convention and his later decision to endorse GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump

News From Home

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Trib Events for the Calendar

•   A Conversation with state Reps. Four Price and John Smithee on Oct. 4 at Amarillo College in Amarillo

•   The Texas Response To Zika on Oct. 18 at BCBSTX Headquarters in Richardson

•   A Conversation with U.S. Rep Michael McCaul on Oct. 25 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke on Nov. 4 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with state Reps. Andrew Murr and Jason Isaac on Nov. 14 at Schreiner University in Kerrville

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