On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III, which covers education aspects of the state budget, held a public hearing in Austin. The focus of this first meeting on interim charge 13 was to discuss specific public education programs that are funded outside the Foundation School Program (FSP) and administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The committee is tasked with making recommendations that increase, decrease, or eliminate programs based on measurable performance and effectiveness.
The vast majority of all education funding dollars in Texas are sent to school districts through the FSP. Tens of billions of dollars every year are distributed based on school district characteristics and the student population. Outside of the FSP, there are special programs that are funded as individual line items in the state budget. Before the massive budget reduction in 2011, there were significant projects funded at hundreds of millions of dollars apiece, such as the Student Success Initiative and the state educator incentive pay program known as DATE. Since that time, these programs are fewer and have been funded at a much lower level.
These types of interim meetings take place every two years as agencies are submitting their budget requests to the state and the appropriating committees, House Appropriations and Senate Finance, prepare for lengthy, in-depth hearings while the two-year state budget is created. There were no serious policy proposals or shifts that came from Wednesday’s meeting; however, what was discussed was that there are very important programs funded at relatively low levels that depend on an ongoing commitment from the state. These include programs such as Communities in Schools, money for newly constructed educational facilities, and funding for accelerated instruction of at-risk students. The committee seemed to be in agreement that all of these initiatives play crucial roles in meeting the many challenges facing our public school population. The question going forward will be whether there is broad political will to make the necessary investments in our state’s public education system.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) mentioned that that the House Appropriations Committee and House Public Education Committee will hold a joint meeting to take a closer look into school finance sometime next month. ATPE will cover that hearing and provide updates for Teach the Vote.
Video of the full subcommittee hearing can be viewed here.