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Legislative leadership appoints select committee to study public school finance in Texas

AUSTIN—Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff and House Speaker Pete Laney last Wednesday announced they have appointed a joint select committee to studs the public school finance system in Texas.

“Once again, the time has come to examine the way Texas pays for public education and look at alternative methods that will meet constitutional muster,” Ratliff said. “The dynamics of state funding and local property taxes are changing. We must ask ourselves if there is a better way to pay for our schools.”

Ratliff and Laney said they have charged the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance with conducting a comprehensive review of the structure of the Texas public school finance system, including facilities and transportation issues; the method used to fund public schools; and the criteria used to determine state payments to school districts.

The legislative leaders also have instructed the select committee to carefully consider all of the equity issues that govern public school finance and fully examine all of the revenue resources for funding public schools, including the state’s property tax system.

“Texas has been well served by the school finance system in place since 1993, but economic and social changes over the last few years require us to take a new look at how we fund our schools,” Laney said. “The makeup of this committee shows the importance of public education as the top priority of state government. Its members will evaluate what’s good about the current system and what problems it presents, focusing on equality and fairness for both taxpayers and school districts.”

Ratliff has appointed Sen. Ted Bivins of Amarillo, Sen. Steve Ogden of College Station, Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. and Sen. Royce West of Dallas to the committee.

House members appointed by Laney include Rep. Paul Sadler of Henderson, Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston, Rep. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston, Rep. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, and Rep. Todd Smith of Bedford.
Public members appointed by Ratliff and Laney include Kent Caperton, former state senator and shareholder in the Austin law firm of Winstead, Sechrest and Minick, P.C.; Will Davis, former member of the State Board of Education; Craig Foster, cofounder, special adviser and former executive director of the Equity Center; Lyndon Olson, former chairman of the State Board of Insurance and former U.S. ambassador to Sweden; Mark Stiles, senior vice president of Trinity Industries of Dallas and former member of the Texas House of Representatives; and David Thompson, partner with the Houston law firm of Bracewell and Patterson, L.L.P. specializing in school law.
Sen. Bivins and Rep. Sadler will serve as co-chairs of the committee.

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance will report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature for consideration in the next Regular Session in 2003.