Finance commissioners get earful from public

The Texas Commission on Public School Finance met Monday for the fifth time, kicking off what is expected to be the only meeting during which members of the general public will be given the opportunity to speak to the 13-member body.

Roughly 50 invited witnesses were scheduled to speak before the commission opened up for public testimony Monday. Invited witnesses were allocated five minutes each, while members of the public were given three minutes each.

Former House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock was the first invited witness to testify, and called for eliminating the outdated cost of education index (CEI). Aycock also suggested funding charter schools based on the allotment given to their constituent feeder campuses as opposed to the current practice of allocating funding based upon the state average. Former House Public Education subcommittee chair Paul Colbert emphasized that money does indeed matter when it comes to funding public schools.

Chandra Villanueva, Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, urged the commission to study the actual cost of funding public education. Villanueva noted that the Perot Commission, which studied Texas school finance in the 1980s, considered how much it would cost to fund the ideal Texas school.

The majority of invited witnesses were comprised of traditional public education stakeholders, including representatives from educator organizations, administrators, school board members and business interests. By and large, these stakeholders pointed out that money is important in public education, and argued for the state to resume its fair share of the burden of funding local schools after years of gradually dumping the lion’s share of funding responsibility into the laps of local taxpayers. This view saw vigorous pushback from state Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter testifies before the Texas Commission on Public School Finance on March 19, 2018.

When public testimony opened up Monday afternoon, ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter pointed out new polling data that show Texans agree money is important in public education and that the state should pay its fair share. Exter testified there are multiple realistic pathways to get the state’s share up to 50 percent from the current 38 percent. It could do so through increases to the sales tax, expanding the tax base, eliminating some of the roughly $30 billion of “corporate welfare” built into the state tax system, or some combination thereof. To wit, Exter suggested lawmakers could get to fifty percent by adding one penny of sales tax, combined with a small expansion of the tax base and eliminating some corporate welfare.

During public testimony, parents and teachers expressed nearly uniform dissatisfaction with the current level of school funding – often delivering heated lectures to members of the commission. Many echoed the opinion that the state should spend more on public education in order to take pressure off of local taxpayers who are currently saddled with the majority of the burden of funding public schools. Public testimony is expected to last well into the night. The commission working group on expenditures, which is chaired by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston), is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning at the Texas Capitol.

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5 thoughts on “Finance commissioners get earful from public

  1. Elaine Hutzelman

    It is way past time to give your attention to Texas retired teachers who haven’t had a raise or COLA in 14 years. What other state employee would be treated like this? Our healthcare has changed, premium increased and many increased costs, including copays and some prescriptions. Caremark doesn’t even carry 2 of my prescriptions! What do we have to do to get the Board’s attention. TRTA has done exceptional work in speaking on behalf of retired teachers and letting the Board know that this problem isn’t going to go away on its own. TRS has let down its retired teachers, who were promised retirement funds that they could live on. Most retirees have other jobs just to make ends meet, when they should be retired and not having to worry if there will be an annuity check arriving the end of the month.

    Reply
    1. Mark Wiggins

      You are right Elaine, and we absolutely agree retired teachers deserve attention! We encourage you to continue to follow the school finance commission’s meetings; even though public testimony is closed, you can still e-mail and call your local members of the Texas House and Senate and let them know how important it is to make sure the state honors its commitment to retired educators. As we’ve noted in our regular updates from TRS meetings, it will be a major topic during the next legislative session. We need to keep both active and retired teachers engaged.

      Best,

      Mark Wiggins
      ATPE Lobbyist

      Reply
  2. Janet Godfrey

    Concerning retirement, for years I heard that we (teachers) collect 60% of our average income over the last 5 years as our retirement. Now that I am almost there, I am told that I will receive only 46% of my average. I am also grandfathered in for whatever difference that makes. Now I have to decide how many years past 65 I am willing to work if able. Of course there are also the issues with funding the schools. I still put a lot of personal funds into my classroom each year.

    Reply
  3. don fritsche

    There is a formula that determines retirement pay. It is an average of your best 5 years salaries multiplied by the number of years you have taught multiplied by 2.3. We determine our retirement basically by the number of years you are willing to teacher. The less you teach the less you make. I retired and received 105% of my best salaries. Call TRS to get the correct info.

    Reply
  4. don f.

    There is a formula that determines retirement pay. It is an average of your best 5 years salaries multiplied by the number of years you have taught multiplied by 2.3. We determine our retirement basically by the number of years you are willing to teacher. The less you teach the less you make. I retired and received 105% of my best salaries. Call TRS to get the correct info.

    Reply

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