AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas House Democrats are expected to push this week to make school finance an emergency item at the State Capitol. That
move would fast-track legislation to restructure the funding system -- which a judge ruled unconstitutional last week.
Many Republicans want to wait until after the likely Texas Supreme Court appeal next year, but school officials went door-to-door Monday trying to convince lawmakers to act now.
"We are the ones in the trenches, we're there everyday, we're in those school classrooms, and we're seeing it take place firsthand,” said Abilene special education teacher Greg Rake, who is a leader among his local chapter of the Association of Texas Professional Educators. “Here is the place our policies are delivered from really without regard from being in the classroom and having firsthand knowledge of what's going on in our public schools."
An estimated 500 ATEP members asked for that emergency item – a designation that would allow lawmakers to begin tackling the issue within the first 60 days of the session.
If the idea fails, schools will likely have to wait a year or more for the outcome of that court appeal, stretching their money until then. Even the state’s Commissioner of Education Michael Williams said waiting is smart.
full interview from Sunday's "In Session. In-depth." program.
"There is going to be a robust conversation among the legislators about funding for schools,” said Williams. “But it seems to me that the more prudent time to make those large funding determinations is after the Supreme Court has given the final ruling in this case."
If that decision is delayed until 2014, Gov. Rick Perry would likely call a special session to restructure the funding system. If he waits to call it until after the 2014 primaries but before the general election – something that could be politically beneficial for Republicans.
Amid this discussion, House budget writers unanimously approved a bill Monday to pay for $4.8 billion the state owes from last session for Medicaid. Leaders says the bill must be on the governor's desk by March or many doctors and hospitals will not get paid.
This money comes from a surplus the state had from last session. But the issue goes beyond Medicaid. Democrats say they will try to restore money cut from education with this bill before the full House takes it up for a vote.
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